Laugh it off

Poetry has always been a mystery to me. I never minded the occasional Haiku or Shape poem, but it was free form poetry that I really dreaded. There is no formula for writing a good poem, you either get it right or you don’t. Now don’t get me wrong I learned about rhyme scheme and played with meter but I never quite got anywhere. It’s the subtitles of poetry that escape me. You won’t find much figurative language, metaphor or simile in my writing. I stand by my ability to write academically and appreciate the creative side of others, but alas still yearn for the ability to write a beautiful poem on my own.


For now I will settle for reading some thought provoking poetry. Billy Collins, a former Poet Laureate started a program called Poetry 180 ( ). It’s 180 days of poetry with the soul purpose of exposing the United States to good poems. He believes getting poetry into our hands on a regular basis will alleviate some of the anxiety generally felt when we think about reading or writing poetry. This is poem 8.


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.

I like this poem because it speaks to my inner child. The author describes a child building a tower of books as high as they possibly can, exhausting all their efforts, and when it falls laughing without a care in the world. Koertge says, “laugh so loud everybody in the world frowns and says ‘shhh’ Then start again”. This is the most powerful line in the poem because it is a good motto to have. It tells me to work hard, laugh at my failures, and when the world tells me to shhh, I just need to start over.

Where would we be if our heroes let the world tell them to shhh? We’ve all heard that J.K. Rowling was rejected over a dozen times before some wonderful eight year old begged her dad to publish Harry Potter and The Scorchers Stone. But this has happened to almost every great writer Stephen King was told that people wouldn’t be interested in reading his books because negative utopias, “Just won’t sell” (boy were they wrong) and F Scott Fitzgerald was told, “You would have a great book if only you got rid of that Gastby character”. These authors didn’t let the world tell them to shhh they just started again. Granted they most likely didn’t laugh off every rejection letter, but they never quit.

I strive to be the kind of person who starts again when they fail and never gives up on what they believe in. I want to be someone who can learn from their mistakes and if everything falls apart, find the strength to keep going and start over.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Wangent
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 03:50:15

    Here, here. You gotta stick with writing and with important tasks in general.

    A Japanese proverb goes: 七転び八起き (nana korobi ya oki)
    In other words, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

    Cheers to perseverance, yo!


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