Most of us have trouble separating the two in our everyday lives. Ask me how to create a blog, and I will surely go beyond the practical, instructional steps and start giving advice.
I knew when I chose Wendell Berry's poem "How To Be A Poet" that it wasn't a perfect example of what I was asking in the prompt, but I like the poem. (We used another Berry poem in 2006 for a prompt on contentment.)
Make a place to sit down.which is good practical how to, but he also says things like
Sit down. Be quiet.
There are no unsacred places;and that is something else - not even advice.
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
On the site prompt I mentioned Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" as also being a list poem of observations, and that both look at something from different points of view. Maybe I'm wrong about that last part. Perhaps, the Berry poem is all one point of view.
I knew that "how to be a poet" would be too limiting a prompt and perhaps there's already too much out there on how to read a poem, and how to write a poem. (see below) So I ask that you try a poem that instructs by explaining how to do something, and also gives advice. Feel free to choose topics poetic (How To Write A Sonnet) or not (How To Sharpen A Knife) or at the further end of practicality (How To Separate; How To Be; How To Tell Her). Use the how to as part of your title in some way (My Mother Tells Me How To Fix My Marriage).
More sites to inspire your how-to thoughts or muddle your mind:
- How To Do Things
- How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch - online article and also his book on this.
- How I Teach Poetry in the Schools by Jack Collom
- And if you want to be a good student, you can try this test on the Berry poem
This portrait of Wendell Berry is from the "Americans Who Tell the Truth" project. This collection of portraits & quotes was painted by Robert Shetterly.
Americans Who Tell The Truth is also a book of the first fifty portraits in this series printed in beautiful color with short biographies and an essay by Robert Shetterly about the intent of the project. The book is suitable for all ages, but its target audience is middle and high school. They have published a free curriculum on this website for teachers to be able to teach American history through the lives of these people.
The quote from Berry on the portrait reads:
“The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful.”