March 3, 2008

What You Can Not Be

Our March prompt uses two poems with similar titles that seem like they might have been written from the same prompt.

In Molly Peacock's poem, "Why I Am Not A Buddhist" and Billy Collins' poem "Why I Could Never Be A Buddhist, we have poets trying to convince us that they couldn't be a Buddhist.

Their reasons differ for Peacock, the problem is desire. For Collins, it's being unable to empty himself.

In Peacock's poem, the things that get in the way are very material things that she desires: houses, clothing, food. It's a basic Buddhist teaching that desire leads to suffering.

The distractions for Collins are less "material" - a squirrel, the mirror, his feet, Catholic teachings from childhood - but he has problems with another Buddhist basic. He cannot "empty the bowl" of his busy mind.

We're not interested in submissions about your problems with Buddhism. For our prompt, look at what you can not be.

Can you be a teacher, soldier, politician, swinger of birches, or a husband? Why can you not be satisfied, finished with a poem, yourself or faithful?

As many-faceted as you are, there are certainly more things you are not. A poem that starts in this approach of negation will often be one that tells, less overtly, what the person in the poem is.

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