The Unfinished Poem

Since I began this column, I have always thought of what I write here as poems. Obviously, they are stories and essays in form, but my intent remains largely that of a poet. “Poet,” unfortunately, has become somewhat of a lofty term, approaching guru or sage, but this is inaccurate. A poet is a friend in words, and is turned to for all the reasons we turn to a friend. It is true that I like to teach, by which I mean offer a perspective that might be of use to someone else. But true teaching often takes time, takes repetition, especially if your goal is to define a path another might follow. I have vowed to keep these pieces short, and so no such time is available, which leaves me, by pleasant necessity, with the poet’s solution.

Every poem contains a question, and always this question is in one way or another about suffering. Suffering is really the only question any person carries in his or her heart. Where a teacher teaches the way out of suffering, the poet, through image, metaphor, and rhythm attempts to direct the reader to a feeling within herself where her own unique answer to suffering resides.

It is why poems can seem so impractical. What is this? Just some pretty words? There are no answers, no villains defeated, no love won. What’s more, in the end, the poet leaves the responsibility for happiness at the reader’s door. The reader must finish the poem, which is supremely unsatisfying until you do it.

This is showing and not telling at its root form. The poet is showing the reader what already exists, what has always existed, what cannot but exist. We feel it and we forget, we see it and we forget, we sing, say it, write it—and still we forget. No matter. Your life can become the pleasure of remembering, where suffering is the name of the street we follow home.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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