Yes, it’s Wednesday, the day I normally geek out on all things data. But today, I am not feeling it. And I came across my favorite poem this morning, so I am feeling more poet than data miner.
In college, I decided to take creative writing. There were two options: short stories adn poetry. My friend had taken the story option the previous semester and she spent many a night typing her stories for the week. I did not type quickly, and thought a thousand words a week was a bit much (little did I know!) so I chose the poetry option.
Yes, I chose poetry becuase I was lazy and thought it would be easier. It was one of the hardest things I did in college, and when I saw an A for the semester, I felt like I had won a Nobel for my little hand bound chapbook.
But Wendell Berry had not yet written yet my favorite poem. You see, there are instructions for being a poet. Words of warning (patience joins time with eternity) and plainspoken advice (Make a poem that does not disturbe the silence from which it came)
Poems are made, not written. College me kind of intuited that, but Wendell spelled it out. It’s a craft, not some woo-woo cult initiation. My college poetry instructor also hinted at that, but I don’t remember him saying it aloud. Wendell does. Sit down. Be quiet. Stay away from screens. Accept what comes. Reading this poem again does make me thing the same basic instructions could work for any writing.
For my fellow data nerds, I will get back to numbers next week. For my fellow poets, here are Wendell’s instructions:
HOW TO BE A POET
(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 timeto eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
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 comeout 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.