Advice to an Aspiring Poet
Face up to the sphynx
of the unwritten page
and stare it out.
Capture the zeitgeist: then
toss it in the bushes.
Don’t be intimidated
by the language police:
their authority is spurious.
follow your nose.
Believe there’s a word
for everything. If you can’t find it
make it up.
Shun the academies:
seek out your teachers in the library.
Remember – seven years in the service
of the Queen of Elfland
is worth a thousand creative writing courses.
If you’re not a poet already
try something else.
They arrived on birthdays and at Christmas time –
alternative realities, disguised
in coloured wrappings.
Book – the cloistered warmth
and promise of the word –
like wood, a place of refuge and excitement
to live in and be lost in, foursquare neat
on the outside – but how vast
and unruly the worlds within.
The novel was my nightly compensation
for the hurt of living: stepping out of myself,
I put on my alter egos like pyjamas.
Then there were the books with colour plates –
shop windows displaying nature’s merchandise –
identification keys that led
through labyrinths of dense taxonomy
towards the excitement of a species named.
Now techno-evangelists proclaim
the coming of the Virtual Kingdom. Books,
they say, are obsolete. It may be so.
Or maybe, in apocalyptic blackout,
when all the death-struck devices lie abandoned,
the book will once more patiently reveal
its secrets to a dancing candle.