what’s the use?: of poetry


Yesterday, the English Ed. program threw a big party and invited the LA spoken word poetry troupe Get Lit to it to share all they know about reading the world to read the word. Today’s giant understatement = a really good time was had by all.

In the course of the afternoon, one of the poets, Monique Mitchell, read Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem “Poetry As Insurgent Art [I am signaling you from the flames.]” A beautiful line from this poem is this one: “The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.” So our Afternoon Pages prompt for today is to address, if that is the case, how poetry would respond?

Here’s (the highly unedited) response I wrote yesterday:


How many days has poetry

saved me?

How many days have I fastened myself

to a word, a line,

gripped it like a grapnel,

Hung on tight

so I could just hang on?

I collect poems like I 

collect(ed) rocks, stamps, crossword puzzles

when I was seven, seventeen,

and even now in the lamplight

before I go to sleep.

I add words to the list of WORDS that

I keep on my cell phone

those I will use now and someday.

Some people say, “Waste not, want not.”

Some people say, “A penny saved is

a penny earned.”

But I say, waste words anyway.

I say, spend them all.

Eat them like cereal from the china bowls.

Slurp them from the good silver.

Serve them up like grilled cheese on the crystal plate.

Use your words (use my words)

this moment, now, not some distant someday.

What if the most important guest 

you imagined to impress

never comes?

Words unspent are wasted,

(as with your vast life)

without poetry,

worlds unsaved.



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