Wendell Berry’s “How to be a Poet”

Poetry as a gift of silence…Here is a poem which spoke to my heart like a familiar breeze ruffling through the forest, bringing new life and resonating with joy. It is from author Wendell Berry’s book New Collected Poems

  

HOW TO BE A POET (to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.

Sit down. Be quiet.

You must depend upon

affection, reading, knowledge,

skill — more of each

than you have — inspiration,

work, growing older, patience,

for patience joins time

to eternity. Any readers

who like your poems,

doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath

the unconditioned air.

Shun electric wire.

Communicate slowly. Live

a three-dimensioned life;

stay away from screens.

Stay away from anything

that obscures the place it is in.

There are no unsacred places;

there are only sacred places

and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.

Make the best you can of it.

Of the little words that come

out of the silence, like prayers

prayed back to the one who prays,

make a poem that does not disturb

the silence from which it came.

Why Posting an Imperfect Post is an Act of Freedom

Lately my husband and I have been on a theology kick and read to each other before bed…until we get totally confused, inspired or one of us ends up drooling on the pillow (usually me!)…It’s been really interesting, and definitely gives us something new to talk about beyond how’s work and what did the kids do at school today.

Tonight we were reading about freedom, and it made me ponder what it really means to make a free choice, and how it relates to the stifling danger of perfectionism in writing…as perfectionism leads to the inability to make definitive choices and complete things. (Yes, being writing-obsessed, I manage to relate pretty much everything back to blogging…just ask my husband).

Anyway, the author described the misconception of freedom as the ability to make an endless succession of choices, without any of them ever being permanent and definitive. The idea that having options equals freedom, and the more options, the more free you are. “But why not?” you might ask…”Doesn’t that sound good?” The thing is to apply this idea and see where it leads. Here are some examples of how it changes, sometimes subconsciously, how we make decisions:

“I’m not going to choose what to study, because that way I can choose to study anything at all. I’m keeping my career options open.” Yes, and your empty wallet…Being open to the possibility of all jobs but having no job = unemployment, not freedom.

“I’m not going to choose someone to marry, because that way I can marry anyone at all…I’ll be so free.” Or so lonely and jaded, because it takes one real heart to love you and keep you warm at night, not several billion theoretical ones.

“I’m not going to post anything on my blog (ah, finally, blogging!) until I have something perfect. As long as it’s in my draft box, I have the freedom to keep changing it. It won’t be permanent.” Ah, yes, that horrific word….permanent! We are so afraid of it. It implies commitment, confidence, strength, endurance…yikes!

But tell me, is having a draft box full of unexplored possibilities really freedom?  Nothing wrong with drafts, but to really mean something and come alive they need to be released, imperfections and all, into the world. You need to say as a writer (or painter, photographer, chef, etc), “This isn’t perfect and I’m ok with that. It’s not perfect but it’s mine and I stand by it. This is me.”

That one irrevocable act of posting your little poem, photo, story or ponderings is a greater expression of true freedom and honesty than that of hoarding your drafts like treasures, choosing to hide them away lest they not shine as brightly in the light of day as you’d like. I think it was Julia Cameron who said that you need to be willing to be a crappy artist in order to become a great one. So be yourself, stand by your work, make a permanent choice to share your work and in that way really own it. Post that thing you’ve been hiding away so jealousy. Chances are what’s closest to your heart will resound in the hearts of others as well.  

Writerly Ramblings: On Not Blogging Enough Lately

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So for one reason or another, like in the Baby Blues cartoon above, I’ve been letting the usual business take over more lately, and haven’t been blogging very often for the last few weeks. It’s very easy to find something else more urgent on my to-do list (anything that stinks or screams jumps right to the top), but constantly choosing something more pressing than pressing publish is having it’s effect. If I went to a specialist my appointment would go like this:

“What seems to be the trouble , ma’am?”
“I haven’t been myself lately…I’m more irritable and impatient, and I feel like adrenaline is always rushing through my veins, even late at night and early in the morning…”
“I see…and have you been blogging lately?”
“No, not much.”
“No ideas?”
“Quite the opposite. Words are buzzing around my head at night. I’ve got so many ideas I can’t choose which one write about next, or even if I make a draft, which one to publish.”
“Aha! It sounds like you are suffering from an unblogged duct, caused by an excess of ideas and a deficiency in publishing them.”
“But I don’t know where to start…”
“Well, the best remedy for unblogged ducts is to write something, anything, and publish it as soon as possible. This will help overcome this flare-up of perfectionism, and get things flowing again.”
“Thank you, doctor. I’ll get write to it!”
“Once you hear that little sparkle sound of a WordPress notification of someone’s comment on your iPad, you’ll start feeling yourself again.”

So here I am, imaginary doctor’s orders, writing. And I’m glad. I’ve been missing you all. You might think that writers are solitary creatures, only concerned about crafting words in the dark loneliness of a late night office. But the opposite is true. Writers have a great need to connect, to share their experiences, to inspire and be inspired, to encourage others and to be supported themselves. It’s about people ultimately…

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I’ve been wanting to tell you about our giant expedition to the park with Uncle Winston, about the inspiring homeschool conference I attended, about the Father’s Day dinner at a Chinese restaurant that ended by me being peed on by the baby, about my new Barefoot Books home business that I’m so excited about, and about all the crazy things my almost four year old has said lately, among other things. So hopefully I’ll get to all these things very soon, and let’s hope this post gets things up and running again!

And for anyone else who has been putting off writing lately, get to it! You’ll feel a lot better…

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I’ll tell you all more about it soon, but for anyone who wants to check out my new Barefoot Books site, here’s the link. Hope you’ll love these books as much as my kids do!

Barefoot Books: Colourful, Cultural Books for Creative Kids

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