Edith here, using all the fans.
I’ve been writing so much during recent months. On Saturday my brain needed a break, and friends who had moved out of town were back. So I hosted a small bring-your-own lunch Solstice picnic in my garden, suitably distanced. After we ate and talked and drank, we each shared a poem or two.
I read “I Shot a Gun” from Ellie O’Leary‘s new collection, Breathe Here. Ellie is a talented writer I met twenty years ago at the Pyramid Lake Women Writers’ Retreat. She’s originally from Maine but now lives in Amesbury and is this year’s Poet Laureate. I picked that poem because, as a crime writer, I wanted to hear what she had to say about guns. But then I realized it was really about writing.
She talks about being at her friend’s uncle’s house as a girl and being given a rifle to shoot. I knew from that day I would always be a wordsmith, not a warrior was the line that caught me. It goes on:
Figured my aim would be better with words than guns – because when I pulled the trigger my thought was, “Oh, kickback. That’s what that means.” (Sorry, I can’t make the poem’s original line breaks work here.) I hope you’ll look up the book.
Another favorite poem about being a writer is Billy Collins’ “Purity.” He writes, after a few lines:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants and a pot of cold tea.
Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
It goes on from there about wanting nothing between him and his words. I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter. Read the whole thing if you can.
It’s good to peruse poetry to give my prose brain a break, and it’s even better to read poems about writing! Now I wonder if my beloved Mary Oliver has one.
Readers: Do you know other poems about being a writer? Share your favorite poem or poet.