On Writing / Poetry / The English Teacher / The Social Network

How Might We Begin?

Just a little while ago (a year and a half isn’t such a long time, is it?) when I spent most of the daylight hours in a high school English classroom, I stumbled across (who knows how these things happen!?) a poem about the writing life. If I were the type to swear (I don’t mean curse — any coarse ol’ woman might do that occasionally, to her shame and others’ minor amusement), I’d do so, affirming that I’d shared this poem on this very blog when I first fell under its spell. To my delight, I couldn’t find it. So, if my searching skills are as lame as I sometimes fear they are, and you’ve seen this before, just hush, and enjoy this poem again:

“Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?”

Ron Koertge


Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave

your house or apartment. Go out into the world.


It’s all right to carry a notebook but a cheap

one is best, with pages the color of weak tea

and on the front a kitten or a space ship.


Avoid any enclosed space where more than

three people are wearing turtlenecks. Beware

any snow-covered chalet with deer tracks

across the muffled tennis courts.


Not surprisingly, libraries are a good place to write.

And the perfect place in a library is near an aisle

where a child a year or two old is playing as his

mother browses the ranks of the dead.


Often he will pull books from the bottom shelf.

The title, the author’s name, the brooding photo

on the flap mean nothing. Red book on black, gray

book on brown, he builds a tower. And the higher

it gets, the wider he grins.


You who asked for advice, listen: When the tower

falls, be like that child. Laugh so loud everybody

in the world frowns and says, “Shhhh.”


Then start again.*


Leave the desk. Look around. Love words. Laugh.

Then — write.


*from Fever, 2006

Red Hen Press  Copyright 2006 by Red Hen Press.

All rights reserved.

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