The old joke goes: “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” And, of course, any word could be substituted for “doctor”–even “poet.”
Wendell Berry’s poem “How To Be a Poet” got me to thinking: Is there, as with Taoism, a “way”? When my students insist they cannot write poetry, I show them Naomi Shihab Nye’s One Boy Told Me, a found poem consisting of wonder straight from the mouth of her young son.
“We’re all poets when we’re little,” she says. For young writers who all share on their résumés this thing called “childhood,” it’s helpful. Each student can recollect things they said and noticed as a kid, and if they can’t, they need only interview their parents for homework and come back “poets” the next day!
But back to Wendell Berry. His “how-to” is more poetic, as you might expect. Thus, would-be poets thinking in terms of black berets, happening cafés, and certain prescribed ways need not apply. If muses could be bought in a bottle, after all, every alchemist would sell them.
How To Be a Poet
(to remind myself)