Poets Are Strange

Poets are strange –
Why can’t they just call the spade
a spade? And what’s a rock but
rock: sandstone, shale from the tiredness
of weather? Coal and limestone, plant
and animal dross

— but nature wastes nothing.

Why do poets look for metaphors under
every rock, the walls that hold the creek, earth
that crumbled, forged resolute, and grew above
my grandmother’s rib, beat hard when she was
widowed with six children on the road

fleeing the Communists
fleeing the Communists
fleeing the Communists

and soldiers who ran out to drag their own
men screaming without their arm
back to the trenches in
too many battles and

and bald children in hospital beds who still
know how to laugh.

Why can’t poets be simple? They see
a crushing burial in heat and time:
marble, quartz, gneiss

— living, burnished beauty.

Poets. They think they can say it
better than


110 thoughts on “Poets Are Strange

  1. ooo! 80’s song choices by way of response.. we’ve the Whisspers; Rock Steady. We also have Def Leopard Rock of Ages… we could toss in a biblical stoning but that’s usual tasty in a messy religiony way…. hmn rock bad joke perhaps? what do you call a LITTLE rock?? groan now…. rocket πŸ˜€ whooosh, and there i go!

  2. Long ago in school geology gave me a world view that has survived so many changes. It took a lot longer to get the appeal of poems, but in this piece I do:Β Β  “tiredness / of weather”Β  . . . “plant / and animal dross” . . . ” a crushing burial in heat and time” (eye and mind openers, but nicely offhand)

    Maybe people who like poetry see connections easier. Here the soldiers, your grandmother, the innocent children are bound together in your words by forces similar to what makes rocks — fire (love, maybe anger too), presure (suffering), and loss (death).Β Β  You saw these important persons as strong and permanent, and now I can too.

    About the italics at the end, one puzzling commenter made a connection with music. Should I have? I think I should. It fits the changes in tone throughout the poem.

    • I love that they were eye/mind openers. =)
      No need to read into the italic.
      Love, anger, suffering, endurance all forces to be reckoned with.
      I love how we can show this in a single poem, not explain or pontificate.

  3. I think we forgive poets for their eccentricities because we enjoy the color their works bring to the monochrome scenery that is literature.

    However English students, please note that you can’t answer the following question like this:
    Give me a sentence with a metaphor.
    “Last night, I called my girlfriend and metaphor a drink.”

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  5. “and bald children in hospital beds who still
    know how to laugh.”
    This got to me. I once knew a child who went through it.
    Otherwise the poem contains everything it questions about poets. The irony makes it enjoyable. You know, one time in high school I asked our Literature teacher why stylistic devices are taught in class as if they too special in language yet they are so commonly used that it is impossible to make a complete speech without them. Metaphors, similes, rhymes, alliteration, consonance, assonance, antithesis, onomatopoeia, etc. I have never read a passage that did not contain at least one of them. The teacher never really gave me a satisfactory answer. He seemed more interested in the idea that I could identify them in everyday conversations.
    Thanks for the poem.

    • So many children like these everywhere, Peter – and we are oceans apart. For all the pain and loss (of strength, vitality, freedom) they are so ready to seize joy. It is humbling.

      As for the literary devices, I gave it some thought and think it might be like asking why we bother naming our body parts when they are so common. Something along that line. =) But good question (I have to say that, as a former teacher and a homeschooler.)

  6. Amen, amen, and amen. I think there is good poetry that can touch the heart, as in the book of Psalms or hymns. However, the poetry of men more often than not speaks with flowery words but says nothing, or would leave me depressed if I didn’t know better. We’ll said.

  7. A great idea to write a poem about poets using difficult metaphors when you yourself are also a poet using wonderful metaphors made of powerful words. Love how you link the different ideas with adequate transitions from the poet topic, then the nature images and finally the family’s history with the Communists and the war. As a reader one immediately feels the increasing tension within the poem. The closing lines go back to the beginning and so I think the word “rock” is a clever choice. Yes, poets think they can say it better than rock. As a reader I can interpret a second meaning of the word “rock”: harshness, for life is not just beauty, especially considering the events you describe in this poem. And the idea of rock connected with harshness has also a positive meaning to me: resilience. After all, as Catalan philosopher Josep Maria Esquirol says: “To resist is to exist”.

  8. One of the beautiful things about reading your work is that I can tell you “hear” the words come to you as I do. That there is a rhythm they follow–and you hear it just like me. It’s a trait I wish more editors had:). It would make the writer’s life easier!

  9. This is golden Diana ~ cannot argue with the conclusion or the perfect line of: “Why can’t poets be simple?” Something I bet your husband may whisper to himself every now and then πŸ™‚

    From all your writings, I’ve learned the amount of power you can pack into words is impressive, and in poetic verse, the power grows exponentially. It is always such a feast for the mind to ponder your posts. Wishing you and your family a wonderful summer.

  10. I am not a big fan of poetry… I think it has always been too fancy and cluttered for me to fully engage with the poet’s intention. However, as I get older (with more life experiences), I appreciate the poet’s dance with words. It can be slow and romantic, or fast and jumbled. But still it is a dance that can enthrall us with the music of life!

    • That is neat that your palate has evolved, Deb. on this comment board, I quoted a poet earlier who said that he knew he was an experimental poet in the past bc looking back, he didn’t make sense. =) But you know, the poetry landscape has also evolved. It is far more accessible emotionally, less falutin.

  11. I think many poets wish to share an emotion or thought, but want to hide from the story that created it. I’m not sure how to place the though further. Also, to share a beautiful description of the “rock”. To share how important that rock is? Hmmm.. maybe not expressing myself well.

    • I used to think that way but the deeper I go in the study of this art, I am discovering that at its heart lies the quest for truth, which means honesty with oneself before (in the company of) the reader. If one doesn’t break through that thick wall of (un)consciousness, the poem reflects the deficiency.

  12. What a gorgeous piece that captures an essence of what it is to be a poet; to notice and make those small things into the biggest of stories or to simply leave them as they are and let the reader make their own interpretations. πŸ™‚

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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