Saturday, June 11, 2005

Letter To A Young Poet

"Write the book that hasn't been written yet."

Write the book that hasn't been written.
The one experienced but not articulated.
The one spoken but not set down.
The book thought of, yet not thought out.

Do the book that has not been done.
The one you live in your struggles.
That you discuss in your arguments.
That demands you reflect and form opinions.

The book that hasn't been authored
Is the one readers need to find,
But isn't on the shelves,
That undone book you know about.

When it appears on the shelves
In stores, in homes, public libraries,
It'll be seen as the work that was needed.
That was desired in the imagination.

Don't write the book that is a copy of great models,
That echoes ancient diction and such learned pleasures.
Write the book that hasn't been written yet!
Write a new language that is up to the minute.

Write about anything, in no particular order.
Like a columnist, What am I going to write about today?
About anything you experience as urgent these days.
Write about things you must do.

About great oak trees you have gotten to know
Intimately, as Dr. Chekov would know a patient,
The trees you have dug trenches around,
Protected from lightning, trussed with cables.

Saved from the chainsaw, from being carted away
As stacks of fireplace logs on the back of a truck,
Saved from the chipper, from being mulch under a shrub.
Write about the men who help you with the work.

Write about cycling many miles a day through the Adirondacks.
About training many hours a week in the Florida heat.
About hammering the pedals with each cycling stroke.
Flying the hills, down and up, then climbing the peaks.

Write about your daughters and their beauty.
(Incidentally, they get their vivid good looks,
Their glossy black hair from you --
I am, as usual, shameless and embarassing.)

The poems that are your daughters and how they concern you,
About one bringing home a six and a half foot guy from the basketball team,
About her forming a love of literature, and writing poems
(Just like your sister when she was that age, like you.)

About how you haven't seen her since you fixed her car,
Now she's out "sororitizing", developing her life.
Write about your daughters and their lustrous beauty,
As they sit by the pool and study their books.

Their beautiful skin is a lucid poem
Of hope for a future generation:
A granddaughter running for office,
A great grandson hammering pedals in the Alps.

Write about your son. How he was you junior, in didies.
He's now solid, complex, rooted as the oaks you contrive to protect.
How he has his mother's light-complected skin and hair,
Her placid reserve.

Write about your new wife,
How she is good to you and good for you.
How she comes all the way to town to bring you lunch
And you go all the way to the coast each Friday.

That highway between you is the eight-lane expressway of her love!

Write about your sister
And how she is a link to your mother.
Write about your father,
How you are your son's link
To your father's lore and traditions.

And that is just the beginning.

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