Missi Rasmussen: Poetry Manifesto

Fall '13 TOC

The poem is my surrogate mother.

A poem is a way of breathing when you cannot breathe without assistance.
A poem is a lost deck of cards upon which I have written what a poem is.
A poem is frantically looking through every single box in the garage looking for that deck of cards so you can be reminded of what a poem is. And this is what makes one a poet.

A poet scours for what will help her find the right words. Because a poet does not have them all the time. Just borrows them from time to time when they are needed. When they are needed to describe a little girl with long curly brown hair and a yellow sun dress. To describe her holding a purple parasol as she walks along the shore, just barely getting her feet wet with the surging of the tide. When they are needed to describe a storybook the size of a city, sitting open so that human beings can walk upon it. And they are dressed nicely, as if it were a dinner party they are going to. But Death is the hostess, and although tipsy, she still welcomes everyone in with a seductive wave of his hand. Everyone is there except the poet, for she forgot to wind her clock again. She is alone.

A poem will save her from her loneliness. But only for a moment. Because although a poem is, does not mean it always will be. Poems change. So if a poem is experienced once, it cannot give the same experience again. It will not. It only has one interpretation to give away at a time, so you will get a different poem the next time you experience the same poem.

A poem is therapy.
A poem is a collection of words in no particular order that once experienced, feels like the absolutely right order, and there's no possible other order in which they could exist.
Unless the poem exists somewhere else.
The poem is the words' mother.
A poem makes existence.

A poem is a not-death.

Breathing and swallowing. Clicking, chirping, slurping, scratching, whimpering, stammering, shuffling, whiffing, sniffing, choking, and spitting. These are poems without sounds.

What you hear while being still and quiet. What you hear. The wind, a distant dog in a distant yard whining for its distant owners, an aircraft roaring by, a cricket's violin legs, or even the noise of silence. Those are poems. A poem is sensory, even if you have none.

A poem is born as an egg. It is unfertilized, but through the poet's anticipation, it can become viable. This involves the cracking open of the poem's vessel and exploration of its possibilities. Even poems have limitations, and the poet is only human.



Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
© 2012 Naropa University