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Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson

The Poem Only You Can Write

I challenge you today to write a poem that only you can write. There are common themes, but specifics belong to us alone. Things we have done bravely or in terror. Moments so pristine we return to them again in both memories and dreams. Addresses that became permanent even when we moved on. And there are weighted words that unfold in us with all their dimensions and implications.

We write from profession, from innovative hobby or craft, from place, from intimate relationship to a person known or unknown, real or imagined. We write about what we hold as sacred.

Many of the poems I feel most possessive of have grown from of my nursing career, especially my Hospice work. I also draw on my Palm and Tarot reading and the grandmother who taught me. I write repeatedly about being a fourth grader whose father died of cancer.

I once heard a poet who was also a physician talk about why she put specific medical terms and pathologies into her poems even when most people don’t immediately know what they mean. She said poems should teach and should always be true. She said exactness increases veracity – and piques interest. She said it insults readers if we water down or translate terms for them. If they don’t grasp meaning from context, they can look it up. Plus, many terms just sound so cool.

In the same vein, I am often fascinated by poets who have intimate knowledge of nature: birds, fungi, a certain mountain range, wild horses, geologies and speak their language to me. I am drawn to poems about cultures I learn about through songs, lyrical histories and unforgettable journeys. I like it when words and phrases from the original tongue are included.

I am drawn to the places and times of lives returned to line after line – like Frost’s rather brief stint as a farmer that inhabits most of his work.

Anyone can write about an era, but only you can portray THAT day. Anybody can rail against injustice but only we can describe our deepest scars.

Think of secrets only you can reveal. And facts only you can recite. In your way. The way of the poem.

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