by Anne Stevenson
‘You have to inhabit poetry
if you want to make it.’
And what’s ‘to inhabit’?
To be in the habit of, to wear
words, sitting in the plainest light,
in the silk of morning, in the shoe of night;
a feeling bare and frondish in surprising air;
And what’s ‘to make’?
To be and to become words’ passing
weather; to serve a girl on terrible
terms, embark on voyages over voices,
evade the ego-hill, the misery-well,
the siren hiss of publish, success, publish,
success, success, success.
And why inhabit, make, inherit poetry?
Oh, it’s the shared comedy of the worst
blessed; the sound leading the hand;
a wordlife running from mind to mind
through the washed rooms of the simple senses;
one of those haunted, undefendable, unpoetic
crosses we have to find.
This poem appeared on the main NCLA website on 18th November 2010.
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Anne Stevenson‘s website.
Saying the World festival on the main NCLA website.
This poem is taken from the prologue of her book Poems 1995 – 2005 (Bloodaxe, 2005).