“Challenges To Young Poets, (Bloggers and Runners)” With apologies to Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Ideas, inspirations, and starting points for poets, as proposed by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet laureate of San Francisco with my additions and very slight changes in italics.
Climb or run up the Statue of Liberty.
Reach for the unattainable.
Dance or run with wolves and count the stars, including the unseen.
Be naive, innocent, non-cynical, as if you had just landed on earth (as indeed you have, as indeed we all have), astonished by what you have fallen upon.
Write living newspapers. Be a reporter from outer space, filing dispatches to some supreme managing editor who believes in full disclosure and has a low tolerance level for hot air.
Read between the lines of human discourse.
Avoid the provincial, go for the universal.
Think subjectively, write objectively.
Think long thoughts in short sentences.
Don’t attend poetry or running workshops, but if you do, don’t go to learn ‘how to” but to learn “what” (What’s important to write about).
Don’t bow down to critics who have not themselves written great masterpieces or have run masterfully.
Resist much, obey less.
Secretly liberate any being you see in a cage.
Write short poems in the voice of birds. Make your lyrics truly lyrical. Birdsong is not made by machines. Give your poems wings to fly to the treetops.
The much-quoted dictum from William Carlos Williams, “No ideas but in things,” is OK for prose, but it lays a dead hand on lyricism, since “things” are dead.
Don’t contemplate your navel in poetry and while running and think the rest of the world is going to think it’s important.
Remember everything, forget nothing.
Work on a frontier, if you can find one.
Go to sea, or work near water, and paddle your own boat.
Associate with thinking poets and runners. They’re hard to find.
Cultivate dissidence and critical thinking. “First thought, best thought” may not make for the greatest poetry. First thought may be worst thought.
What’s on your mind? What do you have in mind? Open your mouth and stop mumbling.
Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.
Question everything and everyone. Be subversive, constantly questioning reality and the status quo.
Be a poet, not a huckster. Don’t cater, don’t pander, especially not to possible audiences, readers, editors, or publishers.
Come out of your closet. It’s dark in there.
Raise the blinds, throw open your shuttered windows, raise the roof, unscrew the locks from the doors, but don’t throw away the screws.
Be committed to something outside yourself. Be militant about it. Or ecstatic.
To be a poet at sixteen is to be sixteen, to be a poet at 40 is to be a poet. Be both.
To be strong at sixteen is to be sixteen, to be healthy at 50 is a to have good genes, good luck and good habits.
Wake up and pee, the world’s on fire.
Have a nice day.
First read at the 17th Annual San Francisco High School Poetry Festival, February 3, 2001
My first exposure to Ferlinghetti was in a grade nine art class where we read from Coney Island of the Mind and did drawings inspired by these poems. I also recall creating a giant papier mache pizza a la Claus Oldenberg.
City Lights, a must see when in San Francisco
During our short 1 1/2 day stay in San Francisco earlier this month we visited City Lights Bookstore which was co-founded by Ferlinghetti.
Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with poetry, running and blogging or whatever you like to do for FUN!
Purchasing Nox, by Canadian poet Anne Carson
Extensive Beat literature and poetry section