LESSON 11 – TO BE OR NOT TO BE

No poem was selected to be featured this week.  Please send your poem in this coming week, in response to the following lesson, and I will consider it for presentation at the beginning of next week’s lesson.  Thank you, Susan

Many years ago, I was giving a poetry reading at a University and when I finished, I invited attendees to come over and talk with me.  One of the students who came over was wonderfully excited about the last poem I had read, “The Trouble with Sleeping.”  He went on and on about how he had felt my meaning and been moved and understood so well the passion and pain I had expressed.  I listened politely and thanked him profusely for such a deep commitment to my work.

The truth is my poem really was about “the trouble with sleeping.”  It wasn’t about feelings of inadequacy or leftover trauma from my childhood, all of which the young man who spoke to me, had found nestled somewhere in my poem.  And that was fine.  Because, as I say all the time, a poem is only half a poem, until it is shared and, once it is shared, you need to relinquish your right to impose your meaning on the person you shared it with.

I am a firm believer in the words of Archibald Macleish in his poem “Ars Poetica.”

A poem should be palpable and mute   

As a globed fruit,

Dumb

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone

Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless   

As the flight of birds.

                         *               

A poem should be motionless in time   

As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases

Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,   

Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time   

As the moon climbs.

                         *               

A poem should be equal to:

Not true.

For all the history of grief

An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love

The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean   

But be.

I am especially partial to the last two lines, “A poems should not man/ but be.”  I believe that what poet Macleish is saying, is that we shouldn’t be telling people what the meaning of our poem is, we should be encouraging them, through our use of imagery and other poetic devices, to feel the poem; let it touch them, move them, change them, and find their own truth in the poem, not one we impose on them.

So, today I’d love for you to write a (ten line or less) poem that adheres to the concept that a poem should not mean, but be. The head on over to my Fireside Chat room https://poetladykatz.com/poetry-talk/ and send me your poem.  I’ll choose one that really adheres to today’s lesson and publish it as the lead-in to my next lesson, with credit to the poet, of course.

how wonderful it is to be

to touch    to smell   to taste   to see

to hear the seconds tick away

and just BE part of every day

May you be touched by the comfort and catharsis of poetry,

Susan

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