My Poems Have Not Eaten Poems



19 October 2013
9:39 pm

T. —

This photo reminded me of you for some reason, and it reminded me of the coming winter. But the one thing I don’t always like about Pinterest is the source links don’t always get back to the real person, the real source of the photo. So I have no idea how to source this except to say it’s not mine.

For the first time today, out of all of the essays I’ve ever done, I got to write to a student about a poem she had written. None of the essays are ever creative. Sometimes the student writes about a poem, but even those are rare. Today, I got a real poem by a real person, with the question This is my first poem. Did I do it right? I got to say:

Firstly, I would like to tell you that poetry is not something that can be done correctly or incorrectly. Just like art, there are many things that you can do to create something, but the choices you make with a poem are only dependent on your personal preferences. I’ll give you some ideas to help you think about your poem in different ways, but you should keep trying new techniques, or reading lots of different kinds of poems in order to find out what you like.

It felt amazing. It felt like something I would really like to do again.

I also directed her towards a Stephen Dunn poem, and all of Pablo Neruda’s remarkable odes.


Sisyphus’ Acceptance
Stephen Dunn

These days only he could see the rock,
so when he stopped for a bagel
at the bagel store, then for a newspaper
at one of those coin-operated stalls,
he looked like anyone else
on his way to work. Food—

the gods reasoned—
would keep him alive
to suffer, and news of the world
could only make him feel worse.
Let him think he has choices;
he belongs to us.

Rote not ritual, a repetition
which never would mean more
at the end than at the start . . .
Sisyphus pushed his rock
past the aromas of bright flowers,
through the bustling streets
into the plenitude and vacuity,

every arrival the beginning
of a familiar descent. And sleep
was the cruelest respite;
at some murky bottom of himself
the usual muck rising up.

One morning, however, legs hurting,
the sun beating down,
again weighing the quick calm of suicide
against this punishment that passed for life,
Sisyphus smiled.

It was the way a gambler smiles
when he finally decides to fold
in order to stay alive
for another game, a smile
so inward it cannot be seen.

The gods sank back
in their airy chairs. Sisyphus sensed
he’d taken something from them,
more on his own than ever now.


Ode to the Book
Pablo Neruda

When I close a book
I open life.
I hear
faltering cries
among harbors.
Copper ingots
slide down sand-pits
to Tocopilla.
Night time.
Among the islands
our ocean
throbs with fish,
touches the feet, the thighs,
the chalk ribs
of my country.
The whole of night
clings to its shores, by dawn
it wakes up singing
as if it had excited a guitar.

The ocean’s surge is calling.
The wind
calls me
and Rodriguez calls,
and Jose Antonio–
I got a telegram
from the “Mine” Union
and the one I love
(whose name I won’t let out)
expects me in Bucalemu.

No book has been able
to wrap me in paper,
to fill me up
with typography,
with heavenly imprints
or was ever able
to bind my eyes,
I come out of books to people orchards
with the hoarse family of my song,
to work the burning metals
or to eat smoked beef
by mountain firesides.
I love adventurous
books of forest or snow,
depth or sky
but hate
the spider book
in which thought
has laid poisonous wires
to trap the juvenile
and circling fly.
Book, let me go.
I won’t go clothed
in volumes,
I don’t come out
of collected works,
my poems
have not eaten poems–
they devour
exciting happenings,
feed on rough weather,
and dig their food
out of earth and men.
I’m on my way
with dust in my shoes
free of mythology:
send books back to their shelves,
I’m going down into the streets.
I learned about life
from life itself,
love I learned in a single kiss
and could teach no one anything
except that I have lived
with something in common among men,
when fighting with them,
when saying all their say in my song.




One thought on “My Poems Have Not Eaten Poems

  1. I have Neruda’s Odes. Beautiful book.

    Re: finding sources of photos, it’s the same with Tumblr. Often times people forget to include (or remove) credit. I really don’t understand why. Anyway–what I do is search for it via Google Images or TinEye. You can also install an app or extension to your browser.


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