The Work of a Poet

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

I was sitting near the window-seat at a small inn outside of Pittsburgh. The sun was shining on antique floor boards, white lace curtains, and the deep, deep snow outside the door. I'd just finished taking a few pictures of chairs, clocks, a pewter bowl. Having nothing left to do while waiting to be picked up and ushered on to the city, I began to read...

Did you think writing great, or even good, poems would be easy? What feeling of accomplishment would you get from doing what is easy, what anyone can do without trying? Athletes train relentlessly to become stronger, faster, better. Dancers attend class every day, and rehearse long hours in the studio....If you thought poetry was different, this is your wake-up call. — from, Ordinary Genius

I underlined the hardest parts. Did you think? Would be easy? What anyone can do without trying? Wake-up call.

"I am not a poet," I said out loud.

It was only partly true. After all, I had a poetry book. And I had done some of the work of a poet. I had searched my soul, exposed deep places, played with words. But I was not really trying, not the way I knew I could.

"I want to be a poet," I said to the air.

This was going to mean something. I would have to do what didn't come naturally. I might need to read and write a lot more poems, like my poet-friend Marcus, who reads and writes poetry almost every day. I might need to struggle through trying out forms, like my other poet-friend David. (I asked David recently if form comes naturally to him. "No, it's like ciphering a quadratic equation," he told me.)

Then there was this. I would have to care enough about poetry to do it even though it doesn't pay; there would be people who would think my poetry wasn't work, because it can't buy a house, a car, or even a ticket to a baseball game. There would be people who would think my poetry wasn't work, because it involves a great deal of play. Facing such people is also the work of a poet.

It has been a year since I sat near that sunny window seat, at a small inn outside of Pittsburgh. I see more clearly than ever what the work of a poet is, and I can still say...

I want to be a poet.

The Work (and Play) of our Network Poets

I heard from a good number of people (including myself smile that they found the catalog prompt to be quite a challenge. Maureen took up the challenge beautifully, so we are featuring her poem today...

From the Bridge

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you dream it, with me, the pull of smoky depths sliced through
with the jagged diamond light of falling stars?
Did you hear it, how the syncopation of words knocked off
the rail, not making time with the heart's own rhythms?
Did you feel it too, that single infallible catching of the breath,
holding in the air the length of the fall?
Did you too taste it, the crumbed bread gone to mold,
the fruit of the wine turned to bitters?
Did you imagine it, at last, looking up, his face in the moon
and a hand out?

Thanks to our other Network members, who worked and played along with this month's Random Acts of Poetry...

Monica's There You Are
Mama Abby's Let the Pain
LL's Finding Our Place and Autumn
Stephie's What Would You Do
Apesydaisy's She Thinks
Karen's Awaiting Time
David's The Kiss
Linda's I Give You
HisFireFly's His Call Remains the Same
Sandra's I Am
Mom2Six's Pilgrimage
Kath's Leaving
Glynn's Chopping Wood
Mozi's Cataloging My Blog
Melissa's Holy Communion
Susanne's Do You Remember?
Blue Cotton Memory's Peace from Scraps
Mama K's No One Knew
A Simple Country Girl's Splendor in Surrender
Kathleen's We All Get One
Heather's Catalog Poem
Maureen's From the Bridge

Photo and post by L.L. Barkat, author InsideOut: Poems.

“Most of the material on The High Calling is available for reuse under a Creative Commons 3.0 license. Unfortunately, work by Laura Barkat is not available for reuse. If you are interested in reprinting work by Laura Barkat, please contact her directly.”