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And a Few of Your Thoughts on Writing, Please

  • I used to think that to write poetry
  • I needed absolute silence, so I could hear
  • the muse in her bare feet.
  • I imagined special pens, ink the color
  • of Shelley’s eyes, and paper made only
  • from trees that had died in a hospice,
  • their pulp then pressed into quartos
  • by celibate vegetarians.
  • Certainly I needed a thesaurus as heavy
  • as Roget’s daughter, gold-leafed encyclopedia
  • filling hand-polished bookshelves, and perhaps
  • something cashmere for the higher altitudes
  • of Art.
  • Now I seem to need nothing but a room
  • and a cat. Outside, the gardener writes
  • his long, green sentences. In here, JoJo
  • steps through the window and fixes me
  • with his voluptuous eyes.
  • I pick up the stub of a pencil and go to work.

Ron Koertge is a two-time winner of the PEN USA Literary Award for Children’s Literature and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in recognition of his achievement in poetry. He has taught at Pasadena City College and currently teaches in the low residency Writing for Children MFA Program at Vermont College. He is the author of several award-winning books of Young Adult fiction, a few of which are written in verse. His most recent collection of poems is The Ogre’s Wife, published by Red Hen Press in 2013. This poem is from his collection Geography of the Forehead, published in 2000 by University of Arkansas Press, and is published by permission.

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  • I used to think that to write poetry
  • I needed absolute silence, so I could hear
  • the muse in her bare feet.
  • I imagined special pens, ink the color
  • of Shelley’s eyes, and paper made only
  • from trees that had died in a hospice,
  • their pulp then pressed into quartos
  • by celibate vegetarians.
  • Certainly I needed a thesaurus as heavy
  • as Roget’s daughter, gold-leafed encyclopedia
  • filling hand-polished bookshelves, and perhaps
  • something cashmere for the higher altitudes
  • of Art.
  • Now I seem to need nothing but a room
  • and a cat. Outside, the gardener writes
  • his long, green sentences. In here, JoJo
  • steps through the window and fixes me
  • with his voluptuous eyes.
  • I pick up the stub of a pencil and go to work.

Ron Koertge is a two-time winner of the PEN USA Literary Award for Children’s Literature and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in recognition of his achievement in poetry. He has taught at Pasadena City College and currently teaches in the low residency Writing for Children MFA Program at Vermont College. He is the author of several award-winning books of Young Adult fiction, a few of which are written in verse. His most recent collection of poems is The Ogre’s Wife, published by Red Hen Press in 2013. This poem is from his collection Geography of the Forehead, published in 2000 by University of Arkansas Press, and is published by permission.

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