Wednesday, January 25, 2012
(Spring Beauty by Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009, American
How can you become a poet?
The poet W. H. Auden once proposed a curriculum for his “daydream College for Bards,” which he set forth in an essay, The Poet & The City.
1. In addition to English, at least one ancient language, probably Greek or Hebrew, and two modern languages would be required.
2. Thousands of lines of poetry in these languages would be learned by heart.
3. The library would contain no books of literary criticism, and the only critical exercise required of students would be the writing of parodies.
4. Courses in prosody [versification], rhetoric and comparative philology [linguistics] would be required of all students, and every student would have to select three courses out of courses in archaeology, mythology, liturgics, cooking.
5. Every student would be required to look after a domestic animal and cultivate a garden plot.
The poet Eve Merriam suggests another approach.
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
~ Eve Merriam (1916-1992), American poet and playwright