Poetry Wednesday: Poems on Poetry

Considering the number of authors who write about writing, it should come as no surprise that poets write poems about poetry.

I’m not sure if this means Write What You Know is a indeed a truism or if Frustration is the Universal Muse . . . But either way, these are three favorites from three of my favorite poets.

Anne Sexton won a Pulitzer for poetry in 1967.  Billy Collins, among many other things, was  Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 2001 to 2003.  Karen Swank-Fitch is the editor of a poetry rag.

Blame Janie for the rat on the skateboard.

I Leave Bits of Me Everywhere
(Karen Swank-Fitch)

poem-words are my clothing, stripped late at night
a trail from the threshold to the foot of bed
along the stairs lay verbs
the actions i need to climb twelve steps at 2 am
a vowel left adjacent to toothbrush
i get sloppy with tartar and allusions
over the cornice of mirror, hangs a strand of pearly metaphors
a simile in my sink
a limerick needing to be laundered
the clothes hamper is full of rimes & meters in want of mending
kick off the shoes,
make a pile of cacophony
wrap myself in the plum flannel of sonnet
hair up-tied with haiku
find the resting place for naked poet…
in ambiance i light a candle
a sestina goes up in flames.

Introduction to Poetry
(Billy Collins)

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

An Obsessive Combination of Onotological Inscape, Trickery and Love
(Anne Sexton)

Busy, with an idea for a code, I write
signals hurrying from left to right,
or right to left, by obscure routes,
for my own reasons; taking a word like writes
down tiers of tries until its secret rites
make sense; or until, suddenly, RATS
can amazingly and funnily become STAR
and right to left that small star
is mine, for my own liking, to stare
its five lucky pins inside out, to store
forever kindly, as if it were a star
I touched and a miracle I really wrote.


8 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: Poems on Poetry

    • Don’t worry about it—as far as I’m concerned, good poetry is completely subjective.

      If you like it, it’s good. if it speaks to you, it’s great.

  1. Thank Janie! That rat is fantastic. (I will not be sharing the photo for fear poor Porkchop will be trained to skate against his will.)

    You know, thanks to Lizi, I take my time now and read these and I wonder if what happened before was that I couldn’t slow down enough to let the poems weave their way through my brain. That being said, I love the first one and am still amazed by all three, that a person could sit down and in so few words get so much across. For me, that is far harder than anything I’ve ever done (barring the raising of kids which is really a wing and a prayer…).

    How do they get the words just so, and get you there emotionally? Just thinking aloud…

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