Just a bit of silliness, really.

How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual
by Pamela Spiro Wagner

First, forget everything you have learned, 
that poetry is difficult, 
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you, 
with your high school equivalency diploma, 
your steel-tipped boots, 
or your white-collar misunderstandings. 

Do not assume meanings hidden from you: 
the best poems mean what they say and say it. 

To read poetry requires only courage 
enough to leap from the edge 
and trust.  

Treat a poem like dirt, 
humus rich and heavy from the garden. 
Later it will become the fat tomatoes 
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table. 

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day. 
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands 
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun. 

When you can name five poets 
without including Bob Dylan, 
when you exceed your quota 
and don't even notice, 
close this manual.

Congratulations.
You can now read poetry.



&hearts
"Silver-Lined Heart"
Taylor Mali

I’m for reckless abandon
and spontaneous celebrations of nothing at all,
like the twin flutes I kept in the trunk of my car
in a box labeled Emergency Champagne Glasses!

Raise an unexpected glass to long, cold winters
and sweet hot summers and the beautiful confusion of the times in between.
To the unexpected drenching rain that leaves you soaking
wet and smiling breathless;
“We danced in the garden in torn sheets in the rain,”
we were christened in the sanctity of the sprinkler,
can’t you hear it singing out its Hallelujah?

Here’s to the soul-expanding power
of the simply beautiful.

See, things you hate, things you despise,
multinational corporations and lies that politicians tell,
injustices that make you mad as hell,
that’s all well and good.
And as far as writing poems goes,
I guess you should.
It just might be a poem that gets Mumia released,
brings an end to terrorism or peace in the middle east.

But as far as what soothes me, what inspires and moves me,
honesty behooves me to tell you your rage doesn’t move me.
See, like the darkest of clouds my heart has a silver lining,
which does not harken to the loudest whining,
but beats and stirs and grows ever more
when I learn of the things you’re actually for.

That’s why I’m for best friends, long drives, and smiles,
nothing but the sound of thinking for miles.
For the unconditional love of dogs:
may we learn the lessons of their love by heart.
For therapy when you need it,
and poetry when you need it.
And the wisdom to know the difference.

The solution to every problem usually involves some kind of liquid,
even if it’s only Emergency Champagne
or running through the sprinkler.
Can’t you hear it calling you?

I’m for crushes not acted upon, for admiration from afar,
for the delicate and the resilient and the fragile human heart,
may it always heal stronger than it was before.
For walks in the woods, and for the woods themselves,
by which I mean the trees. Definitely for the trees.
Window seats, and locally brewed beer,
and love letters written by hand with fountain pens:
I’m for all of these.

I’m for evolution more than revolution
unless you’re offering some kind of solution.

I’m for the courage it takes to volunteer, to say “yes,” “I believe,” and “I will.”
For the bright side, the glass half full, the silver lining,
and the optimists who consider darkness just a different kind of shining.

So don’t waste my time and your curses on verses
about what you are against, despise, and abhor.
Tell me what inspires you, what fulfills and fires you,
put your precious pen to paper and tell me what you’re for!

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May 2009

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