Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Two Ways To Write Poems

"I am who I am." I wonder what one has to pay
To say that. I couldn't do it. For years
I thought, "You are who you are." But maybe
You weren't. Maybe you were someone else.

Sam's friend, who loved poetry, played football
In school even though he didn't want to.
He got hit. Later he said to me, "I write poems.
I am who I am...but my neck hurts."

How many times I have begun a poem
Before I knew what the main sounds
Would be. We find out. Toward the end
The poem is just beginning to be who it is.

That's all right, but there's another way as well.
One picks the rhyme words, and so the main
Sounds, before one begins. I wonder what
Yeats had to pay in order to do that.

Robert Bly, Morning Poems

As you might know, writing an honest, authentic poem is largely a matter of being true to yourself --- to your experience, to your insight, to your feel for word and beauty. So, perhaps it is unsurprising that, when Bly writes about writing poetry, he writes about being yourself, and even about betraying yourself.

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