So fill up with fervor for your heart’s sake

Thanks for spending this lovely month with me, dear readers. I will try to continue posting poems when I have a chance. I concluded last year’s National Poetry Month selection with advice from the Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and now I close with some thought-provoking words from the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. If you’d like to hear the poem in Arabic, click here.

To a Young Poet

Don’t believe our outlines, forget them
and begin from your own words.
As if you are the first to write poetry
or the last poet.

If you read our work, let it not be an extension of our airs,
but to correct our errs
in the book of agony.

Don’t ask anyone: Who am I?
You know who your mother is.
As for your father, be your own.

Truth is white, write over it
with a crow’s ink.
Truth is black, write over it
with a mirage’s light.

If you want to duel with a falcon
soar with the falcon.

If you fall in love with a woman,
be the one, not she,
who desires his end.

Life is less alive than we think but we don’t think
of the matter too much lest we hurt emotions’ health.

If you ponder a rose for too long
you won’t budge in a storm.

You are like me, but my abyss is clear.
And you have roads whose secrets never end.
They descend and ascend, descend and ascend.

You might call the end of youth
the maturity of talent
or wisdom. No doubt, it is wisdom,
the wisdom of a cool non-lyric.

One thousand birds in the hand
don’t equal one bird that wears a tree.

A poem in a difficult time
is beautiful flowers in a cemetery.

Example is not easy to attain
so be yourself and other than yourself
behind the borders of echo.

Ardor has an expiration date with extended range.
So fill up with fervor for your heart’s sake,
follow it before you reach your path.

Don’t tell the beloved, you are I
and I am you, say
the opposite of that: we are two guests
of an excess, fugitive cloud.

Deviate, with all your might, deviate from the rule.

Don’t place two stars in one utterance
and place the marginal next to the essential
to complete the rising rapture.

Don’t believe the accuracy of our instructions.
Believe only the caravan’s trace.

A moral is as a bullet in its poet’s heart
a deadly wisdom.
Be strong as a bull when you’re angry
weak as an almond blossom
when you love, and nothing, nothing
when you serenade yourself in a closed room.

The road is long like an ancient poet’s night:
plains and hills, rivers and valleys.
Walk according to your dream’s measure: either a lily
follows you or the gallows.

Your tasks are not what worry me about you.
I worry about you from those who dance
over their children’s graves,
and from the hidden cameras
in the singers’ navels.

You won’t disappoint me,
if you distance yourself from others, and from me.
What doesn’t resemble me is more beautiful.

From now on, your only guardian is a neglected future.

Don’t think, when you melt in sorrow
like candle tears, of who will see you
or follow your intuition’s light.
Think of yourself: is this all of myself?

The poem is always incomplete, the butterflies make it whole.

No advice in love. It’s experience.
No advice in poetry. It’s talent.

And last but not least, Salaam.

TRANSLATED BY FADY JOUDAH

I love a firmness in you that disdains the trivial

I love this Robert Bly poem so much that I’m going to post it again this year. He’s a big fan of repetition, of letting the words sink in once, twice, three more times, so I think he would approve.

“Indigo Bunting”

I go to the door often.
Night and summer. Crickets
lift their cries.
I know you are out.
You are driving
late through the summer night.

I do not know what will happen.
I have no claim on you.
I am one star
you have as guide; others
love you, the night
so dark over the Azores.

You have been working outdoors,
gone all week. I feel you
in this lamp lit
so late. As I reach for it
I feel myself
driving through the night.

I love a firmness in you
that disdains the trivial
and regains the difficult.
You become part then
of the firmness of night,
the granite holding up walls.

There were women in Egypt who
supported with their firmness the stars
as they revolved,
hardly aware
of the passage from night
to day and back to night.

I love you where you go
through the night, not swerving,
clear as the indigo
bunting in her flight,
passing over two
thousand miles of ocean

POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY!

To all my lovely readers, friends, random visitors: tomorrow, please join me tomorrow, April 29th, in celebrating one of my favorite not-actual-but-should-be-official holidays, Poem in Your Pocket Day. I wrote about this last year and see no reason to change anything so here goes what I said before:

The point of the day is to celebrate poetry by sharing it with others. Print out your favorite poem and read it to a friend at lunch. E-mail one to someone you haven’t seen in awhile. Read one over the phone to your mom. Plaster the boring bathroom stalls in your dorm with beautiful words. You get the idea.

I wrote a column about this delightful holiday two years ago for the Stanford Daily. I’d post the link but the Daily Archives are a bit wonky so here’s some of the text with a few alterations and cuts:

What do you carry around in your pockets every day? A lanyard heavy with keys, a weathered wallet, your (only) chewed-up pen? Backpack pockets and purses count, too. What small treasures do you deem essential enough for constant transport? This upcoming Thursday, Apr. 29th, the Academy of American Poets and your trusty columnist (blogger?) here are encouraging you to place a poem in that lint-filled compartment of yours in honor of the first national Poem in Your Pocket Day.

The “rules” of celebrating this day, which falls on the last day of National Poetry Month, are pretty simple. Put a poem in your pocket. You got that part already. Now you can’t just let it fester there all day. You need to share it with people by unfurling the little piece of paper and reading it aloud whenever you can. Or, if you prefer, by inviting someone to stick their hand in your pocket and read it to you.

Because I am a lover of poetry, the possibilities of this day — or what it represents — really excite me. I realize, however, that my giddiness over poetry might not be shared by the masses. It makes me sad when I hear friends, peers or even adults say that they don’t read or enjoy poetry because they don’t think they “get it.” I think we all carry around this painful image of hunching over a poem in a high school English class, trying to squeeze out meaning by underlining as many literary terms as possible, hoping that the shiny key is located somewhere in that third example of synecdoche.

As an English major, I would be lying (and also admitting to wasting huge amounts of time) if I said there was no value in that kind of poetic investigation. However, I think that one can enjoy poetry and dare I say understand poetry without beating it senseless.

If it makes you think, if it makes you smile, if it makes you walk through the world differently that day, it has meaning. To you. Pleasure is too often underrated in an art form that celebrates the power of words.

The door to poetry is different for everyone. Some prefer the easy-to-open, familiar screen door of Billy Collins and the like. Others would rather scratch away at a cast-iron gate until it creaks open or ignore doors altogether and squeeze in through the chimney. My first real portal to poetry was through the oven door of Sylvia Plath when I was fifteen-years-old. Cliche? Maybe. Is that a problem? I don’t think so. Something in her raw confessions resonated with me, and I’ve been devouring poetry ever since.

I get slightly frustrated when I hear people arguing against poets like Billy Collins or poetry-arrangers like Prairie Home Companion man Garrison Keillor simply on the principle that they are philistines — the fast-food verses for the impatient masses, the easy listening for those unwilling to hear something a little more complex. In my opinion, it is better to have access than to never find an entry point at all. And that’s what events like Poem in Your Pocket Day try to accomplish, as well. To bring poetry out of the anthologies and into our every day lives.

I think it’s important for the poems to be read aloud as much as possible — for your voice to bring the authors’ to life. But if you’re understandably apprehensive about disrupting your chemistry section to share some Yeats, there are other ways to celebrate the day. Slip haikus under people’s doors; read a sonnet over the phone to a friend; cover the bathroom stall doors with some soothing verses.

So come Thursday, tuck a poem into your pocket, backpack, bike basket or whatever and share it whenever you can. Reminisce about childhood over some Shel Silverstein. Lament the cruelties of April and the annoyance of footnotes over T.S. Eliot. Get your seminar hot and breathlessly bothered with Walt Whitman. Feel fragmented with Sappho. Partake in the guilty pleasure of William Carlos William’s plums. Get conceit-ed with John Donne. Or, liberate a poem you wrote from the digital dust of your laptop and let it be heard.