How to Write a Poem

How to Write a Poem

Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up

the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through

curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read

the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you

need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first

gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,

but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create

and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing with the radio.

Always. Turn around instead of right. Deny ambition.
Remember the freckles on your first love’s left breast.

There are no one-way streets. Appreciate the fragrance
of fresh dog shit while scraping it from the boot’s sole.

Steal, don’t borrow. Murder your darlings and don’t get
caught. Know nothing, but know it well. Speak softly

and thank the grocery store clerk for wishing you
a nice day even if she didn’t mean it. Then mow the grass,

grill vegetables, eat, laugh, wash dishes, talk, bathe,
kiss loved ones, sleep, dream, wake. Do it all again.


“How to Write a Poem,” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.

All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.

Available at Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

59 thoughts on “How to Write a Poem

  1. “Turn around instead of right.” Yup – this aligns with the strategic advice from Dewitt Jones, photography guru: “Look at what’s behind you!” Also with my personal experience that retracing steps ALWAYS reveals something missed before … perhaps it wasn’t even there before. Thank you for another keeper.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am supposing that this poem was meant to be a sort of Poetry 102 to follow upon Billy Collins to Collins’s “Introduction to Poetry,” thus the Collins-y voice. If so, that’s pretty balls-y, and you pulled it off. When I get a chance, I’m going to go through this one with a class. Wonderful, wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Resumé

    Name: . . .Bobbie Dale . . . Bobby Clean . . . Robert Shepherd. . . Mr. Shepherd. . . ∞
    Contact: Yes, please
    Address: Lovely spiral galaxy (for a time, but intermittently, partly here, partly elsewhen/elsewhere)

    Position sought: None, but, seriously, thank you
    O yes yes yes!
    Listening, laughter, song, massage, prayer (pardon the redundancy)
    Monkey dance
    Quietness at center
    Being the eyes, ears, skin, paws, cirri, antennae, mandibles, notochords, and other
    sensory and cognitive extensions/manifestations of the One
    Slow disrobing of fruits
    Wrapping burritos, sushi, babies (adept)
    Of some trees and birds, various kami, and past/still present laughing masters
    Aie yie yie! OmG, of course!
    Trust your Self on this one!

    Liked by 1 person

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