April 12, 2011

Finding Poems With Naomi Shihab Nye

Have you ever had someone ask you to write them a poem?

As Naomi Shihab Nye says in her poem, "Valentine For Ernest Mann":
You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Maybe non-poets believe that poets can conjure up poems at will (or with a simple prompt). Nye continues and suggests that rather, poems hide in places where poets find them.
In the bottoms of our shoes,they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.
It reminds me of Gary Snyder’s little poem “How Poetry Comes To Me” from 1992 that also talks about how we find poems and how they find us.

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light

Poetry is a wild animal that is sometimes clumsy and dwells outside our knowledge and awareness. It comes to us only so far. Then, we need to "meet it at the edge of the light” in that place between the known and the unknown.

How do poets do this? Again, Nye suggests:
Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
For our April writing prompt, write about how you find poems (or found one poem) or how they find you. Yes, it's a poem about inspiration and the Muses.

Red Suitcase (American Poets Continuum)

Red Suitcase

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