A Poem that Teaches an Attitude for Poem-making!


This poem was made in a chilly library on a sudden rush of inspiration which is the key to all great poems, it seems to me. The inspiration is the attitude!


I’m rowing home.
Someone on a dock
attracts fish with a pair of lanterns.
I can’t tell in the dimming air
if it’s Hank or his summer renter.
I pull the oars
and think of the lover
I have not met.
She’s in some minor city five states away?
I wonder if she struggles
with thoughts of her lover-to-come.
I vision her as infinitely poetic,
able to make anything real.
She crafts a blue daisy
or a silver wheel; she quiets time.
A radio’s going in her front room
as she closes her eyes,
follows the smallest lights in a sky.
Perhaps her stars are following me
as I’m rowing, rowing.

**** What I realized as I wrote that poem:
You have to fall in love with a new piece as you brew it up. In love as it’s almost finished or maybe just almost presentable, a thing you could read to your mate and still treasure if she doesn’t like the poem! It may be be attacked, half dismantled, nearly stripped of its strange new thoughts, its precious insanity.  A good poem is made with great passion – then revised with care.


*** Friends, what do you learn from writing or reading poems? We’d love to hear from you. ***

I wanted to give you a poem that showed special language & special thought.

William Matthews was a real character, a smoker with a wry sense of humor – taught me at the University of Iowa. A few of his slightly amazing words:

I’ve nothing to say to the moon.
Still, I want to talk.
I want words to be magic,
some secret I have the way I have
my body, so long as it lasts.
I want words to be food,
enough for us all to eat.
The mild stars shine.
The words I want
are sewing my body to sleep,
the no news that is good news, blood
tying and untying its knots.
~ Wm Matthews ~
From this we can learn to create odd juxtapositions and associations – the business of poems. The idea of words sewing makes my point well.

Does this help you see the particular magic of poetrymaking?

Let us hear from you!



Ever insightful, Dethlefsen (The Healing Power of Illness) tells us,”Illness matches every step we take [in the interest of our ego’s hubris] with an equivalent step into submissiveness and helplessness.” Sometimes poets will adopt this stance as well:

“I’m so small/I pick up everything.”

That’s from a my Sunlight from Another Day (for background, search “Tim Bellows” on Amazon.com). When we’re submissive to love or spirit, we’re flowing along with it, with its waves of light and song. Also the hard knocks make us submissive and open to innovation, so we can survive!

Another related point from Dethlefsen hit me: “The final goal of our bodily existence is sheer minerality.” Brilliant! Dethlefsen’s Chapter Five affirms that illness kills our “rampant delusions of grandeur” and balances our imbalances. After all, our egos always chase after power: We talk about what “I” want. But this “I” “lives on delimitation [the boundaries of logic, the marking out of limits] and is afraid of devotion, love, or any move toward oneness” (57).

Final note to remember: The ego self is not the real self. The real self is a spark of the divine, the soul-substance of the self – and of all living things. The best poets keep that in mind.

Good health,
Tim B.

~  Love to see your comments on this! (If they relate to poetry and poets).


desert-and-moonA QUESTION FOR US ALL

Does a poem we value have to transmit love or something less? I suppose there is spiritual love, tough love, love that involves admiration . . . and the list could go on.
Let’s look at part of a poem that transmits a profound love in a grieving situation:

- by Oscar Wilde
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

(“Requiescat” is reprinted from An Anthology of Modern Verse. Ed. A. Methuen. London: Methuen & Co., 1921.)

What a gem! Wilde’s rhymes are so well crafted – and cohering with the emotion. This is almost a low prayer-song, but a very high kind of love, the tears making it no less valuable.
And here we can see adolescent/romantic love:


His hands
sleep in his pockets.

He kicks a stone and it
rattles across the alley. His girl

must take lessons and live
in a town across fifty miles

of dunes. His distress,
his affections

fill the alley to the walls,
fill the sky to the moon,

that see-through angel.
His girl, his desire. In his stomach,

aching cloud, amber butterflies. The moon
lights up a band of Arabians – eyes

black and gold. Horses
whisper across night sands.

~ by yours truly

What poems bring out love for you? Let us know!

As Beethoven Did, We Poets Should Do

FERN BEST CARTOON“As he entered his final decade, Beethoven became genuinely paranoid. And yet,” says Robert Greenberg, PhD, “Beethoven translated his experience into action – musical action – by composing pieces that by some amazing alchemy universalized his problems and his solutions.” ~ Robert Greenberg.
San Francisco Performances. Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley.
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“None of my friends should go in want as long as I have anything.” – Beethoven in a letter to Ferdinand Ries, probably in 1801. (Beethoven Remembered. 114.)
-    -    -
Beethoven, in 1823, writes that “there is no loftier mission than to approach the Divinity nearer than other men, and to disseminate the divine rays among mankind.” This after completing his Missa Solemnis.   –   source: http://www.andante.com/article/article.cfm?id=15832&highlight=1&highlightterms=&lstKeywords=

(Do these words of LVB’s inspire the music of your poetic art? See other posts of mine about the musical nature of poetry.) ~  In your success and gratitude, Tim Bellows  ~
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In summer – the roads in clay or dust – I give my shoes away.

In late fall – amber Saturdays of eternal length – I

take up with books, go solitary, scratching out

the old dedications and penning in praises for my gray father.

No one sees him much these days, as winter’s keen edge

flies in white gusts around us. I imagine him in larger rooms,

a painter in their shiny skies. Daubing down complementary colors,

blending them in tea saucers (white with blue rims).



Then, reverent about the cool mud of spring, I

take up my own motion and stir the brilliant hues –

yellow-red tones that spread soft fires around my surging heart.

I drift round the solid world where fools try and try

to paste conclusions together, lay down bets, make

murky guesses about creation, dying and the Summerland.

     * Those are the first two sections of a poem by yours truly. It demonstrates/teaches a way to use a pattern for a poem: it takes us through the seasons, so it’s a sort of progression. And it’s a good idea to hang your poems on some kind of framework, so they’re not just scattering riffs all over. Notice how colors mentioned here tend to fit the season involved. Fall’s with amber. Winter’s with white. ~ As you revise, try working in seasons and their colors to make your poem a winner. Or find another framework to pour your poem into! A letter going out and one coming back? Or part could be worked up with kitchen/cooking imagery; and the last part with images of a family dinner out in the dining room. Invent, innovate and enjoy your created pattern. ~ Let me know how you’re doing!

A Surprising Source of Poems

The things and people you see around you can touch off a poem. What do you encounter in your daily rounds that strikes you? I knew a pro photographer who, when very young, would blink his eyes on a roadside stand to “save” the image in his mind, and this later showed him that photography would be his vocation.

To Be a Poet – for Real

1 – Be a lover of words.
2 – Be a lover of sound.
3 – Be a pro with healthy exaggeration.
4 – Carry a pocket notebook so you can jot down wild-crazy/sacred thoughts that stop by.
5 – Steal any word-riffs that light you up inside; alter them for your own purposes.
6 – Watch for and expect any event that seems to have a poetic sense. It’s a gift from life. Accept.
7 – Write something first thing in the morning. That’s when you’re closest to the swirls and eddies of dreams.
8 – Pay attention to the sounds of words within lines. Compose them like a Beethoven or a Mozart: May our love / take root. May we cut / holes for sore toes in the tops of shoes / ….
(Notice the chiming of different “o” sounds in that passage? Holes…toes…shoes; lots of resonating sounds.)
9 – Consciously build a deep friendship with all things living. This comes from your pets, your close ones, and from the pure divine/the universe.
10 – Take joy in your confusion, your lack of knowing. If you feel you know all, you’ve reached a stony, fixed state! Move on, always, into the unknown. That’s what a poem should bravely explore.