Friday, December 30, 2005


“Bring Them Home”
J.B. Rowell

for Liam

rub stones
to find friction,
strike spark,
white pappus bursts
into orange flame,
blue smoke hum
numb of simple labor,
to light a fire
takes time
there is an easier way
to heat
the space between,

* * *

crush smaller
porous rocks
with gripped,
useful ones,
add water,
make a paste
seal your face,
travel as a stranger,
see overlooked
select for no use-
ful purpose:
colors, patterns,

* * *

toddler collection,

Poetry defined is the indefinable for me. I'm sure there are many who disagree. People get their MFA, Ph.D., and have careers around writing poetry. I respect that, and it may even be in my not-so-distant-future to start on that path. Do you need an advanced education to write poetry? Maybe. Or maybe just to categorize and recognize various schools of poetry. Maybe to publish widely. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. What is definite is that there are no absolutes about poetry, what it is, where it's going. Nobody has a stronghold on it, it is slippery and strong, like water carving stone. So for now, I am a toddler who collects stones and arranges them for no particular reason. When I questioned my three-year-old son about why he likes to collect stones in his pockets he said, "I like to bring them home." He attributes feelings to them, he clicks them together. He listens. There are many types of stones with many uses. But they are all stones. Poetry has a multitude of schools and fierce opinions thrown about, but in the end, it is all poetry. There is an easier way to be than being a poet. We labor anyway. And sometimes we light a small fire and warm our hands. Sometimes we hide in poetry, sometimes expose. Always we notice something commonly overlooked, and bring it home.


Blogger Rae Pater said...

Well I can give you a definitive answer to part of this post. You do NOT need an advanced education to write poetry.
At VLQ we receive submissions from professors with Phd's, from librarians, and from bar tenders and musicians. All sorts of people from all walks of life, and I can tell you that having an education does NOT guarantee that you are a poet.
I've seen some truly average poetry from very well qualified, and sometimes even well published, poets.
What education does is it gives a depth, specifity, literary reference and vocabulary to your poetry, but the poetry itself? That springs from within. It's some sort of ability to link to, or interact with, the sub conscious, coupled with a tendency to ponder deeply on things around you, observe keenly, and express yourself in fresh and unique ways.
Therefore, to find the combination of these qualities collected together in one human being is fairly rare.
I think one thing that IS essential to being a good poet, is to read. Read widely, read informatively, and grow your mind.
What comes out in your poetry is directly a product of what you feed into your mind.
What you read is processed by your brain and eventually filters through and is fed back to you by your subconscious as an integral part of your self-expression.
So read, read, read.
Read quality literature written by your contemporaries.
The internet gives writers today a HUGE advantage, one that has never existed before.
We have the opportunity online, to read some of tomorrows legendary writers 'in the making.' We get to talk to them, discuss with them what motivates their writing and what they are reading about and working on. What an amazing thing!
Our colleagues are available to us in ways that they rarely were before.
The internet is todays 'Bloomsbury group,' or 'modernist writers.'
Who knows who you will turn out to have been chatting online to? Could be tomorrow's Ernest Hemingway.
So, hmm, I've waffled on a bit, but the short answer is, no, you don't need a doctorate in literature to write great poetry, but I think you DO need to be a reader, and probably a fairly discerning one.
I've never met a writer yet who wasn't a reader.

7:25 PM, December 31, 2005  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Rae - I agree with you on all counts, and have been trying to read more, and more of a variety. Not just what I like, but the whole spectrum. I'm still very in the dark about literary movements and schools. I'd love to hear more about the Internet being like 'Bloomsbury group,' or 'modernist writers' when you have time. I hope you enjoy the start to 2006 with your boys/men.

1:33 AM, January 01, 2006  

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