they have to get out into the world

arrangedpoem

Find a bright room, an uncluttered desk
so you can drive onto the frontier of writing.
Beautiful blank pages:
our letters cross
our gentlest strokes
of darkness upon light.
It veers from non-sense verse
to the most tedious of novels
and back
in just a breath.
Yet being my own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend.

Stay up late with the dictionary.
Comb every word (for sparks and silk) from ancient root to tender tip.
They have to get out
into the world —
who knows what will become of them?

“I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said.
“Take a deep breath and hold
words shy and dappled, deer-eyed in herds
and everything is pure imagination.”

I love words, bright words up and singing early.
I love smooth words.
I watch them waterski
across the surface
and torture a confession out of it.

I need help.
I want my life back.
Work is what you have done
and suddenly you’re through, arraigned yet freed
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Spend the next two mornings
working on a good title.


When I was in college, I was a writing tutor for my last year. It was such an awesome time and gave me so much clarity about what I wanted (and didn’t want) to do as a career. One of the things we had to do when tutored was take an independent study course. Throughout that semester, we had several papers to submit and one of them was allowed to be a creative piece. Of course I jumped at that idea.

I thought and I thought and I thought about what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something different, and then I remembered this assignment from my high school creative writing class. We took the first line from a poem and used it to start a poem of our own. What if, I thought, I did that, but every line of the poem I would write was taken from other poems?

I printed out dozens of poems about writing. Right away, I saw lines I knew I wanted to use in this new poem. I cut every line up and painstakingly arranged and rearranged the slivers of paper into a poem. I capitalized some words, made some lowercase, and altered some punctuation, but the words are in their original order. And I fell in love with my finished product.

I came across it recently when I was looking for papers to share at my book launch party and since I am a terrible blogger, I thought I’d post it here because I really love reading it. It reminds me so much of the current season I’m in when it comes to writing and that’s good. I want constant reminders of why I love what I hope will some day be my full-time job and career.

I’ve listed the poems with links to them in their entirety below (whenever possible; this was written in 2007 and some of the links are expired and I can’t find copies of the poems online).


“Blank Beauty by Judith Pordon

“The Author To Her Book” by Anne Bradstreet

“Introduction to Poetry” by Bill Collins

“Lesson 23: How to tell if your poem is really any good” by William Francis

“Writer’s Anonymous: A 3 Step Program” by Quentin Huff

“Free Verse” by Sarah Kirsh

“For the young who want to” by Marge Piercy

“From The Frontier of Writing” by Seamus Heaney

“How To Write A Poem” by Xanthe Smith

“When I Met My Muse” by William Stafford

“Writer” by Joe Wenderoth

“Pretty Words” by Elinor Wylie

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