(Poem #428) Reply to the Question: "How can You Become a Poet?"
take the leaf of a tree trace its exact shape the outside edges and inner lines memorize the way it is fastened to the twig (and how the twig arches from the branch) how it springs forth in April how it is panoplied in July by late August crumple it in your hand so that you smell its end-of-summer sadness chew its woody stem listen to its autumn rattle watch it as it atomizes in the November air then in winter when there is no leaf left invent one
As I've remarked before, poets as a class are inordinately fond of commenting on the nature of poetry itself, and doing it in verse. I like this trend for several reasons - for one, I'm a big fan of self-reference in all its myriad incarnations; for another, it bespeaks a sense of play that I feel can only enhance a poet's work. And not least of all, because poetry itself *is* a wonderfully poetic topic, and that some truly beautiful poems have been written on it. I particularly like today's poem because it sums up a number of my own feelings about poetry (and, for that matter, about Art in general), and far better than I could have. Merriam conjures up a beautiful evocation of the creative process, seamlessly interspersed with a verse picture of a leaf, and culminating in an unexpected, but oh-so-satisfyingly *right* conclusion. The form is well-chosen too - the shortage of capitalisation, far from obtruding itself on the reader's notice, stays in the background, lending the poem an air of quietness, while the lack of punctuation emphasises the smoothly evolving flow of the images. In Merriam's own words, "a good poem contains both meaning and music", and today's certainly fits both criteria. Biography: Eve Merriam is a poet, playwright, director, and lecturer. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1916, she attended Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin, Columbia University, and has has taught and lectured at many other institutions. Her first book, Family Circle (1946), was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets by Archibald MacLeish. In addition to her adult poetry, she has also written picture books and a number of books of poetry for children, including There is No Rhyme for Silver (1964), It Doesn't Always Have to Rhyme (1964), The Inner City Mother Goose (1969), Catch a Little Rhyme (1966), Finding a Poem (1970), Out Loud (1973), and Rainbow Writing (1976). The controversial Inner City Mother Goose, which Merriam once referred to as "just about the most banned book in the country," was the basis for a 1971 Broadway musical, Inner City, and a second musical production, Street Dreams (1982), which was performed in San Francisco, Chicago and New York City. In 1981, she was named the winner of the NCTE Award for Ex. -- [broken link] http://www.poets.org/lit/poet/emerriam.htm Links: A nice list of metapoems (from where I got today's) can be found at http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/poetry/index.html We've also run several on minstrels - see, in particular, the week starting with poem #186 - martin