Recording of “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)

52 thoughts on “Recording of “How to Write a Poem”

  1. Best advice ever. Perhaps my favorite line of many beauties: ” Know nothing, but know it well”
    No, wait: ” …handle with bare hands only those snakes you know”. Or ….. oh, never mind. An embarrassment of riches, Bob.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh Robert, I adored your poem and so enjoyed listening to your voice. I shall follow your instructions diligently, except the bands stopped playing, my car radio’s not working… My dad used to say “when all else fails, try reading the instructions”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Know nothing, but know it well.” I sometimes get to a point when I paint when knowledge slips away and I act on instinct. I just do what comes next to me. I’ve learned to cultivate and appreciate these moments.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Take your chainsaw to that great bush of words and render it to a bonfire pile. Run wild over the field of dreams and probe the depths of your soul. Observe a whithering leaf and try to find meaning. And above all, be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Recording of “How to Write a Poem” – Sarah Russell Poetry

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