How Can You Become a Poet

Eve Mirriam, a native of Philadelphia, captures something of the beauty of not just poetry but also, I think, creativity itself.

She invites us to consider making two moves: the first is attentiveness. Trace it’s shape, pay attention to its movement, follow its life, chew and smell and see and feel all you can about that thing that fascinates you.

The second move is courage, fearlessness, a refusal to accept what is presented to you as the only thing possible. For when the leaf is gone, she writes, invent one! It is not gone because it has become part of you, and it is not gone because you have the capacity to invent one, to share what you have experienced.

Poetry, T. S. Eliot once said, is rendering blood into ink. It is paying attention to life in all of its varied and beautiful forms and believing that you have the capacity not to own it, or capture it, but to share it, to invent it again for another.

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

Eve Mirriam