Wednesday, January 15, 2014

For Young Poets

First, stop banging away at silence 
like you would with a snow shovel against the ice.
A poem is not a dancing dog,
summoned to perform on its tiptoes at parties.

Put away all spirituous beverages.
Those who write while pitching in a sea of booze
do so in spite of such idiocy, not because of it.
If you haven't the imagination to see things differently without such props,
then become a mail carrier or a bus driver.

Read.
Read Lorca and rip your hair out til you're bald.
Read Neruda and flail, little fledgling on the cliff-side!
Read Plath, tuck your children safely in their room and then
to the kitchen with you to contemplate why cowards can't be poets;
at least not for long.

All you wild spastics shouting at the coffee bar,
waving pages and thinking volume and auctioneer-speak make poetry?
Sit down. Have someone duct tape your cake hole shut.
Think about what you haven't done, until you're ready to join us.

Now, to purge.
Write several great long hunks of unreadable shit,
staggering along on broken syntax,
with words strung together willy-nilly like last year's holiday lights,
all the similar-colored ones in a row, and half of them burned out.
Write haiku about a yew tree or a cherry blossom.
Get your paper plate-eyed friends to declare it all "brilliant!"
Then throw it away and we can get started.

Light candles.
They won't help you to write, but I like them.
Lock the door and don't answer it;
your husband will find his favorite golf shirt on his own,
and your children are already ruined anyway.
Let's do this thing.

The hard part is already done!
The lonely rejections and upheavals of childhood,
the sexual confusions and self-destructive rebellions of youth,
they're over with.
The burials, the pointless treks, the lovers who laughed and left,
the beetle of doubt and otherness digging its burrow behind your heart--
all of this is long complete.

Now, just stare out of the window at the sorrowful blue of the sky,
and the silver beauty of the impossibly distant moon.
Bite your knuckle if you have to, but stillness is best,
even to the point of drooling and apparent catatonia.
"What are you doing?" you'll be asked.
Working. Slaving. Making art.
Understand this, give yourself permission for this,
even as the dishes fester in the sink and the baby cries;
The seeds of greatness will germinate inside the still soil of you, The Poet.

It's not an easy road,
but there is soul and pride to it.
Your poems will be your own particular inverse garments to wear,
heart and guts to the world.
You have joined the cabal of those who possess a true talent:
unicycle riders have their uncanny balance,
lesbians their tongues,
demons their blackness;
now you have your poetry and people to admire you and say,
"It's nice",
"This is what you were doing?"
and "Huh."

Or,
you could still apply to Beauty College.
It's up to you.
________

for Get Listed at Real Toads, this time with Brendan.
 

36 comments:

blueoran said...

Rilke schmilke, give this sibyl a sibilant gold pucker! Wowsers FB, this nails it clean through. You took the words and made something wholly new and shadowed but faintly by Syl. Great work. Now I know what I spent all those years in booty school.

Susan said...

I wish I had written this. Stanza after stanza you reach the psychology of us wordsmiths through loving self-mockery (or vice versa).

Marcoantonio Arellano said...

this was smart and informative but will it be consumed? I would say it's 'brilliant' but then you would just go and write something 'brilliant' and would cause me to once again become envious and I would stick pencils in my ear and my nose while chewing another. lead poisoning is not cool especially when already dealing with dimentia and trying to break the addiction to haiku as a means to "The Bell Jar", Sylvia Plath conclusion. 'just say'n'

Marian said...

haha! my children are ruined already and therefore plenty of fodder. off we go!

TexWisGirl said...

i loved this. what a romp.

Kenia Cris said...

This is brilliant, every line of it.

Read.
Read Lorca and rip your hair out til you're bald.
Read Neruda and flail, little fledgling on the cliff-side!
Read Plath, tuck your children safely in their room and then
to the kitchen with you to contemplate why cowards can't be poets;


I wish I had written this. <3

I've been here before and I've always thought you to be an amazing storyteller, and now I discover you're also a great career advisor.

Thanks for this piece. I'm sharing it with my friends.

<3

Robyn Greenhouse said...

While all this may be true, I'm not sure I believe that your husband will find his favorite golf shirt on his own!

hedgewitch said...

The tongues-in-cheek battle with the acidic and the idealist from stanza to stanza, managing to produce some unforgettable language, and also light those candles which must be lit if we are to see to write. Your eye here manages to be utterly jaundiced and fresh, vulnerable and jaunty as the first crocus. A wonderful instruction manual for those who will never understand it, and for the few who do, invaluable.

Ed Hart said...

yes, yes, yes, and a good reminder to the rest of us

(http://atsea1.blogspot.com)

Kerry O'Connor said...

I'd like to see this poem blazened across college walls, in school halls...

Your poems will be your own particular inverse garments to wear,
heart and guts to the world.

I can't tell you how much I love this poem.

myheartslovesongs.com said...

heaven forfend one should ever write haikū and then claim to be a poet! {snicker}

georgeplaceblog said...

That last line!!!!!!! This was an amazing write.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I grinned all the way through, especially at the dancing dog, and "throw it away and we can get started", "let's do this thing". The seventh and eighth stanzas are oh my God over-the-top fantastic. Loved every line.

howanxious said...

There were many things that made me smile. I liked the tone of it and the tongue-in-cheek humor is lovely.
-HA

Sam Edge Author said...

I wish you'd just let go and say what's really on your mind fb :)

Buddah Moskowitz said...

Inspired. Loved your swipe at the coffeehouse prophets. Just the right amount of venom, but its like a mother's love - acrid, but in the end, supportive. Love love loved so much of this, I'll read it again now.

Sioux's Page said...

Was this volume 1 of a 492-volume poem? ;) It was epic.

I loved the whole thing, and those last three lines were a perfect end.

Pleeeeease slow down...Make it a trickle instead of a flood.

Rachel Westfall said...

You made me smile!

Margaret said...

I adore the "belt" at the middle of this "Then throw it away and we can get started", how it cinches in tight and then loosens and offers freedom… the self-mockery here and there tickled me and even (once again, carefully hidden) the compassion and encouragemnet - the pretending to not care, flippant ending.

HermanTurnip said...

Ahh...the perfect rules to live by whilst writing. Succinct and to the point with a bit of flourish. Nice!

Susie Clevenger said...

What a perfect write of poetry.....it is a fist in the gut undertaking when we realize our best is lacking. Schools should use this poem to teach the doe eyed wordsmith who thinks he/she has the ability to write.

Marlon O. said...

Thank you for this.

It's right here, the reason I won't dare calling me a poet, not yet, not ever - I think.

A poet will never know exactly where he is at, that's why they keep writing, or they keep silence.

Future poets, good poets, young poets and even bad poets, will read this with eyes longing to reach the real poet inside.

Once again, thank you.
I couldn't stop myself from loving each verse.

Sara said...

The Poetry Teacher strikes!!!

I loved the ending. You can always make me laugh.

Helen said...

"For Young Poets" ... I'm feeling really old right now, not enough time to go back, incorporate Shay's Rules of the Road.

Great, great poem.

myinnerchick.com said...

***Read Plath, tuck your children safely in their room and then
to the kitchen with you to contemplate why cowards can't be poets;
at least not for long.***

Brilliant.

What else can I say about you?! Xx

Mama Zen said...

This is so pointed and perfect. Need I say I love it?

grapeling said...

somehow reminds me of Dorothy Parker's admonition ~

Kim Nelson said...

Yep. Just yep.

Outlawyer said...

Wonderful advice And wit. K. Manicddaio

Timoteo said...

WOW...just wow! I love the admonishing tone of this. I've written a couple things of similar nature myself. Oh, and that really needed to be said about Sylvia, at long last...and the slam poets--ear to ear grin!

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Yes it is up to us, isn't it? With those guidelines, we're off to a great start!

angieinspired said...

yes, yes, yes....you have given us all permission to write. and funny, that you fired yourself from carrying mail. ah, you'd fire yourself from the whole lot of everything, if only to write. I'm so glad you do (write)! obviously, this should be spoken at commencement speeches everywhere.

Kerry O'Connor said...

The seeds of greatness will germinate inside the still soil of you, The Poet.

I really needed to read this now! Thank you, Shay.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Wow!!❤️ This is incredibly potent! I wish I had written this!!❤️

brudberg said...

There has been days when I have touched on this... this is how poetry should be

created
read

and sandcastled to be built again.

This is such a great read.

Thotpurge said...

This is incredible in that it gives such insight into the process of creation which I think is so unique for each writer.. beautifully executed. Have been pondering that closing for a while.,what if no one says its nice...how does the cycle start again.