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If E’er I ‘Tweren’t A Poet

February 26, 2011 2 comments

I don’t write poetry.  I’ve tried my hand at it. I start out with an extra-fine writing pen and an empty page. Write one word or two.  Push back.  Stop.  I laugh at myself.  I know that when I try my hand at poetry, my words read more like muddled ooze on the page.  I’ve embraced the non-poet in myself (!) Smile.  On the other hand, I enjoy, if not all out love, reading poetry.  I’ve also taken to listening to Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac.” Along with historical notes and birthdays of authors, Garrison reads a poem for the day.  I like Garrison’s voice, but more so, I like the poetry he chooses to read.

Even though I would have liked to write poetry, I don’t have to.  I read other poets, and listen when I can.  I appreciate those who are able to write  – as poetry is a crafted language and an art unto itself.

One poet I read is Wendell Berry.  He is a farmer, essayist, conservationist, novelist, and teacher.  Mr. Berry writes about marriage, community, the land and the fidelity each demands.  He pulls on my love for nature and the country.  He also speaks strongly towards the irreverence toward God’s gift of Creation and the uniqueness of people and relationships – both at an alarming risk in our post-modern culture.

The poem that inspired this post is called “How To Be A Poet.”  By the poem’s end, I know that his words and sentences are about writing poetry but so much more.  You can listen to the poem read by Garrison Keillor here.

How To Be a Poet

by Wendell Berry

(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

“How to be a Poet” by Wendell Berry from Given. © Shoemaker Hoard, 2005.

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Categories: Authors and such, Poems