Why I Don’t Read Your Poetry
(Disclaimer: I know virtually nothing about real poetry. This is merely my very amateur opinion and gut instinct on the matter. Also, the title is tongue-in-cheek, not a veiled reference to anyone in particular, in case you worried I was talking to you.)
I think of words and how they are used,
how big words should be used only when they are the right words–
do not use a rare word when a simple word works best.
It is useful and good to stretch your vocabulary over time,
here and there, little bit by little bit,
but do not overextend your vocabulary,
which is the mistake many aspiring poets make.
Did you really know that word
before you flippantly plopped it
in the middle of your soul’s expression?
If you haven’t been intimate with a particular word in the past,
it is unlikely to help you conceive a phrase or a line
worthy of your lineage.
The word has to belong somewhere in your history, in your psyche,
for it to come forth in the poem in an authentic way.
Quit pretending to be a dictionary.
Close the thesaurus.
We can tell you’re still awkward with those words,
that you haven’t made it past second base.
How do you develop a wider base
of words to say what it is you have to say?
Fall in love with language.
Head over heels, fall.
Have an affair with a book,
then another one with a poem.
Get so very curious
when you meet a new word
that you peel off its clothes.
Be a conversationalist–
that doesn’t mean talk.
It means ask questions.
When you find beautiful words or beautiful people,
be a captivated reader of them.
Listen before you speak.
Listen more than you speak.
Read more than you write.
Use less letters and more soul.
When you open your mouth or your pen,
Always tell the truth.
If you’ve wrapped those multitudinous syllables
around you like a bathrobe–stop it!
Say something that exposes.
If you’re still trying to impress us,
that’s cheap lingerie, a laced distraction
from the one thing you’re really meant to say.
It is scary, I know, to pare down to the simplicity
of spirit that allows you to speak your true voice.
Start with four-letter words if you must, or no words.
Groans and hums and silences are how poems begin.
(Postscript to my fellow preachers:
this is equally true of preaching, yes?
Replace “poem” with “sermon,” and
“words” with “Word” and
I think I might be right.)