Friday, June 23, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

For Young Poets

First, stop banging away at silence 
like you would with a snow shovel against the ice.
A poem is not a dancing dog,
summoned to perform on its tiptoes at parties.

Put away all spirituous beverages.
Those who write while pitching in a sea of booze
do so in spite of such idiocy, not because of it.
If you haven't the imagination to see things differently without such props,
then become a mail carrier or a bus driver.

Read Lorca and rip your hair out til you're bald.
Read Neruda and flail, little fledgling on the cliff-side!
Read Plath, tuck your children safely in their room and then
to the kitchen with you to contemplate why cowards can't be poets;
at least not for long.

All you wild spastics shouting at the coffee bar,
waving pages and thinking volume and auctioneer-speak make poetry?
Sit down. Have someone duct tape your cake hole shut.
Think about what you haven't done, until you're ready to join us.

Now, to purge.
Write several great long hunks of unreadable shit,
staggering along on broken syntax,
with words strung together willy-nilly like last year's holiday lights,
all the similar-colored ones in a row, and half of them burned out.
Write haiku about a yew tree or a cherry blossom.
Get your paper plate-eyed friends to declare it all "brilliant!"
Then throw it away and we can get started.

Light candles.
They won't help you to write, but I like them.
Lock the door and don't answer it;
your husband will find his favorite golf shirt on his own,
and your children are already ruined anyway.
Let's do this thing.

The hard part is already done!
The lonely rejections and upheavals of childhood,
the sexual confusions and self-destructive rebellions of youth,
they're over with.
The burials, the pointless treks, the lovers who laughed and left,
the beetle of doubt and otherness digging its burrow behind your heart--
all of this is long complete.

Now, just stare out of the window at the sorrowful blue of the sky,
and the silver beauty of the impossibly distant moon.
Bite your knuckle if you have to, but stillness is best,
even to the point of drooling and apparent catatonia.
"What are you doing?" you'll be asked.
Working. Slaving. Making art.
Understand this, give yourself permission for this,
even as the dishes fester in the sink and the baby cries;
The seeds of greatness will germinate inside the still soil of you, The Poet.

It's not an easy road,
but there is soul and pride to it.
Your poems will be your own particular inverse garments to wear,
heart and guts to the world.
You have joined the cabal of those who possess a true talent:
unicycle riders have their uncanny balance,
lesbians their tongues,
demons their blackness;
now you have your poetry and people to admire you and say,
"It's nice",
"This is what you were doing?"
and "Huh." 

you could still apply to Beauty College.
It's up to you.

– Shay Caroline Simmons

No apologies if you've read this one already very recently, because I know you'll love reading it again. And if you haven't, oh what a treat I've just given you! Shay recently posted it to her blog and linked it to The Tuesday Platform at 'imaginary garden with real toads'.

It blew all her readers away, and several said they wished they had written it. I wished that too, and rapidly secured her permission to say so publicly here. Some people said it should be disseminated in schools, blazoned on college walls, and so on. Well, I'm doing my bit!

I have featured Shay here before, and so has Sherry. If you'd like to know more about her, this link will take you to my article, which also links to Sherry's feature as well as to Shay's Amazon page. If you don't already follow her blog, it is Shay's Word Garden where she posts as Fireblossom. All her poetry is wonderful, and I think it all deserves to be read as widely as possible.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.


  1. Oh my goodness! I so RELISHED this poem, every phrase and line, deeply enjoyed it with a big smile, then found my friend Shay at the bottom. Unsurprisingly, as I was thinking of her as I read because only she could possibly have written it. I must have missed it while I was away and am glad to have not missed the boat entirely. Thank you, Rosemary, for posting it. LOVE Shay's writing, which has blown me away since I read her for the very first time in 2010 and someone on a front porch in her poem through a dead chipmunk through a passing truck's own window, showing me just how far poetry can go into the realm of amazement.

    1. Threw. That was supposed to be threw. Good Lord.

    2. And open window. I just woke up, but obviously not completely.

  2. A delightful read, thank you. It means a lot to me that Shay wrote this, and, no, I don't wish I had. I love Shay's discernment and approach to truth--and yours and Sherry's, etc--all different. It doesn't disturb me to wade through the dross to get to the gems, even in my own work. I love people. I love finding real toads in gardens (and especially the poet blog of that name). And I especially love this in Shay's poem:
    ". . . cowards can't be poets;
    at least not for long."
    I learned this even more thoroughly with Marge Piercy and her class last week, though not in so many words. The fifth stanza, though . . . Wow. We each find our unique Way to courage, thank God.

  3. This is brilliant and shattering in its truth. I wish that I had written it; I wish that I could do it.

  4. Simply put, I love this poem. I was laughing, then crying, shaking my head, then nodding like a bobbing head in a back window. I stand up and applaud. And I don't do that often, not because I don't want to, but because it hurts to do so. This is brilliant. Thank you so much for highlighting it and Shay's work. If I could, I'd whistle...


  5. Well, I'm "green" and only hope one day, I will write something so wonderful!!! It makes me sit up straighter, pant hard, dream deep, and I will read it many more times. Certainly one of the best things I have read lately!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. Thank you, everyone, for such kind remarks, and to you, Rosemary, for inviting me to have my work posted in this space.

  7. Thank you Rosemary for bringing us this delight.

  8. Oh my G-d. What am I doing? It is 1;08 AM Saturday morning and I am sitting here smiling away at this glorious poem. You are such a wordsmith! This is - as I like to say: "Fabu!"

  9. Now, that's an outstanding piece of writing and advice. I totally agree, this gem should be disseminated in schools, colleges and those "famous" creative writing courses. Many thanks Rosemary for sharing this.

  10. I love her truth. I love her voice. Now that we no longer have her carrying someone else's messages/letters we can get her to write to us. I lQQk forward to this, mi amiga, Shay!

  11. Shay's poetry is always unique, truthful, and full of insight. This poem should be taught in English classes, and poetry writing classes. Thanks, Rosemary, for giving us this reading treat of so talented a poet.

  12. This poem blew me away. Truth written as only Shay can write it. I think its message is everyone who wants, really wants, to be a poet can and should find their own way. And, ha, it beats applying to beauty college. Smiles!

  13. I, too, am blown away. Stirring and impactful. Wonderful snatches of humor pinned against a 'get real' rallying call. Thanks for this, Rosemary!

  14. " The seeds of greatness will germinate inside the still soil of you, The Poet."

    Luv the deep-seated wisdom of these words and enjoyed your wit throughout this entire poem Shay. Thanks Rosemary for this share

    much love...

  15. what a gorgeous selection. i always enjoy perusing shay's poetry. :)

  16. Yes, I wish I'd written this, but it's as if all of us poets have actually "written", felt and experienced what Shay expresss here. Her poem speaks for us all in her unique manner. Wonderful selection!


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