Friday, December 2, 2011


Another couplet from Rumi's Bowls of Food (Barks, The Big Red Book, 2010, pg 50).
The core of the seen and unseen universe smiles,
But remember, smiles come best from those who weep.


Awesome. Perfect. Timeless. And oh, so, simple. Without the full gamut of emotions, single emotions just don't hold as much weight if they can't be compared to their opposites. Pure grief is impossible without pure love, pure happiness can never be found without once having been truly unhappy. The first line? Who knows what the poet was thinking just before he wrote the second line, but smiles were on his mind. So he reached out, wrote the first, and perfected the second. That is what we do, poets are simple individuals, the current copy of Poetry, The Q &A issue be damned. It drives me nuts when poets discuss the writing of a poem in language that no one can understand. A poem becomes, and that is it. Nikky Finney gets it, her stuff is vivid, but understandable, and her explanations are real. The poem for which her book is titled, Head Off and Split, was a phrase she heard in a fish shop, wrote it down, and created a poem. And is not afraid to say just that on NPR. She is real. These other posers? The professors of poetry? I am sure that they also write poems in the normal way but they have to justify the title "POET" as opposed to people like me, who are poets. "smiles come best from those who weep", that is poetry. "There goes the screen door slamming shut/
You better do what you're told/When I get back this room better be picked-up/Car wheels on a gravel road." Lucinda is a poet. And then there are poets who don't know they are poets. For instance:

You're a writer. Let everyone else get bogged down by doubt.  Get up and see it through. Trust the mind that created your story to see you to the end.  To what end?  To your end, not the sheep's end.  You decide how your journey will end. Without punctuation and some well placed breaks, that paragraph (and many others written by J.R. Wagner), are poetry, just in prose form. Poetry is the words mixed with the idea, not necessarily the couplets, the quatrains, the rhymes or the breaks (and even I fell into the trap above). Sure, we recognize it by the breaks, the rhymes, and the schemes, but it is the words chosen to create in the readers mind an idea, a place, an emotion, or a face.
Sometimes the only way for me to create is in free verse, because I feel I lack the grammar skills to pull off a novel. I feel I lack the descriptive skills to create a character's face for my readers, so I stop, I fall back into disjointed verse, playing with words…and then, I realize. I am a writer, just as Wagner is a poet.
And to paraphrase Rumi: words come best from those who sometimes cannot find them.

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