'Emeritus Poeta Incredibili' by Isabel Tutaine
Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Thank you for thinking so highly of my latest poetry book that you seek my advice.
To say poets are born and not made is too discouraging for someone who wants to try his hand at this dark art. I usually discourage persons from becoming poets because the profession does not pay and getting published is more difficult than measuring the ocean with a teaspoon. It also requires the devotion of a monk and the fierceness of a pirate. That said, how do you know you have been born if you do not attempt to do difficult things?
I don’t know about offering advice, but here is a truth I’ve discovered about writing poetry: No pale angel with gold helixes for hair, crystal wings, and censoring sashes will ever whisper sweet pentameters into your ear for you to transcribe. The Muse is an ogre with curls like rusty paperclips, discarded manuscripts for wings, forever tangled in ink ribbons that in no way edit erotic passages. She is no benefactor with opals for you to peddle and become famous. Boredom pricks her feet like cockleburs. Conventions are breadcrumbs in her bed. Muse will chortle when you show the world your sacred bits of truths as vision, knowing your verse will be received by most as if recited through a kazoo.
Now, go forth and become a poet.
Ebenezer Washington, P.E.E.*
*Poet Emeritus Extraordinaire
Thank you for your last letter but I must ask what you mean when you write that you now have more rejection slips than you have written poems.
I suggest you stop slacking because you should never have more of anything in your life than poems you’ve written—not even money, but there is no danger of that.
Writing poetry is the first step of becoming a poet; collecting rejection slips is the second step and a valuable one because the profession requires humility. I once wallpapered an entire bathroom with my rejection slips and had enough left over to wallpaper the dining room.
Perhaps I have failed you by offering you Truth instead of the Advice you requested in my last letter. Please try to live by these twelve pieces of acquired wisdom and see how they work for you:
When reading poetry, ignore page numbers. They are dead flies in the corners of books.
Be wary of facts. The world is full of them. Each grass blade is a fact, just like that cloud, no longer where it was or shaped as it used to be.
Apprentice to the whispering inks of subsonic paradises no one thinks exist and consult with what no one knows is there.
Write poetry as if each line ends in a burst of fire crackers.
Float among words until you drop between them into a space that does not exist.
Observe the secrets in that space engraved on the surfaces of dust, hidden beneath silences, suspended in sighs.
Unfold the sigh heaviest with secrets into a splendid tundra full of vibrant creatures empowered with juices from their tragedies. Study them.
Create a notion that stirs a dormant mind. Unfurl a clenched soul with the gentility of loveliness.
Write in ambush for opportunities to slip intoxicants everywhere–ribbons of images, musical scents, gargantuan flatirons floating on lacy swells, generals and their turtles.
Seduce a poem. Feed it words as grapes until it reveals its meaning.
Tattoo every word on your palm as it lies open wanting more.
Exult when a reader’s eyes bleed tears directly from the heart, and when You and Poem arrive as a single thought.
Ebenezer Washington, P.E.E.
I have not written to you in a while because I have been busy living by the twelve pieces of wisdom you sent to me and because the cost of stamps has become prohibitive.
I no longer yearn to be a mystic, having fallen in love with words and instead become a poet. As a mystic extracts nutrients from light and air through meditations, I sought to do the same through words, but I conjured Poverty, and it moved in with me, just as you predicted.
Perpetually on budget,, I sought to see the wonders of the world through words in my thesaurus. Who needs to ogle pyramids in person when you can grasp the apex of a geometric form or a serac, when glancing at a picture of a glacier ? No need for airplanes as every book becomes a skateboard on which to travel through time and space to greet primordial ancestors stuck in ylem or visit campsites on Mars.
On the fifth Wednesday of each month the Congregational church opens the Complaint Department in its basement between the hours of twelve and noon for poets to recite their plights. Afterward, the church graces us with a free lunch, as our culture tends to sweep poets into graves and grant fortune only after we lose need for comestibles
Surely teaching elephants to hang glide or penguins to roller-skate is more profitable than writing verse. Most will pay to see an elephant float on a breeze or a parliament of penguins in a roller derby. But neither spectacle gives a grander account of humanity than fine poetry, ours until the day we can no longer read or hear or remember.
Please note that despite being chronically hungry, I am proud to say that I am now published and hoping to become as renown as you are.
Copyright. Isabel Tutaine.
Isabel Tutaine is Cuban by birth, American by citizenship, Cuban-New Englander by culture. She lives in Midcoast Maine where she listens to what the ocean has to tell her and runs home to write it down. Her work has appeared in many journals, including Origami Poems Project, The Adanna Literary Journal, Avocet, and Cathexis Northwest Press. Blanket Sea nominated one of her poems for Sundress Publications 2019 Best of the Net. In 2018, BestLit Review selected her as one of the ten best prose writers in midcoast Maine.