Letter To a Young Poet
by Ryan Mahr-Hale
Do not say anything anybody else has said ever. Things are not “bleached by sun.”
Ground yourself in concrete imagery, preferably of flowers, birds, or trees. Extra points for flowers or birds in the trees.
Sunrises require special treatment and should be reserved for a later phase of your development.
Sex is qualifiedly permissible, but it is inadvisable to mention masturbation.
Lyricism should be understated. Use “O” sparingly, if at all.
Attempts to imitate T.S. Eliot or Walt Whitman will be punished.
Your family of origin is fascinating to you.
Pronouncements on the general foibles and fate of humanity are discouraged.
Make sure you wrap up the pain. Cellophane will not do.
Existential issues should be treated indirectly, by suggestion and metaphor.
It is brazen, but not always wrong, to name God.
If embodiment terrifies you, surely there are birds for that, living and dead.
Do not confuse a poem with the syllogism All men are mortal. Caius is a man. Therefore Caius is mortal.
If you write drunk or high, deny it.
Do not expect fame or money. The market is a narrow alley and there are already giants in it, shifting their shoulders against the brick.
There is no glory here. There is only satisfaction, like a mechanic, and even that not often.
This is a letter to God, trying to make it like me so it doesn’t kill me.
Can you see how many suggestions you’ve contravened there?
I know, but it’s the truth!
We are not in the business of the truth. We are in the business of the beautiful.
They’re the same!
That’s a venerable opinion I assume you took from Keats, but it is, I assure you, only an opinion.
You want me to tell beautiful lies?
All words are lies. Not all words are beautiful. Give them that dignity, if you can.