From the first page of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Poetry as Insurgent Art:

What times are these
When to write a poem about love
Is almost a crime
Because it contains
So many silences
About so many horrors….

-After Bertolt Brecht

And from Ferlinghetti himself:

If you would be a poet, write living
newspapers. Be a reporter
from outer space, filing dispatches to
some supreme managing editor who
believes in full disclosure and has a
low tolerance for bullshit.
If you would be a poet, experiment
with all manner of poetics, erotic
broken grammars, ecstatic religions,
heathen outpourings speaking in
tongues, bombast public speech,
automatic scribblings, surrealist sens-
ings, streams of consciousness,
found sounds, rants and raves –to
create your own limbic, your own
underlying voice, your ur voice.

It was right about there in the poem that I realized I was mouthing the words aloud. The sounds in my head needed to reach my ears. That’s something. “Compose on the tongue, not on the page,” he says later. Want more?

Strive to change the world in such away that there’s no further need to be a dissident.

That turns on the word “strive,” for a kind of utopian-utopia, because most of the so-called utopias we’ve heard of still require dissent. Or maybe it turns on the word “need” because one might be a dissident out of a simple love for questioning, but perhaps the world to strive for would not require dissent, though it might still include it. Wouldn’t that keep utopia vibrant, dissent? (I nearly wrote dissonance). It’s kind of a koan, isn’t it?

This one’s for the English teachers, and the rest of us, in our own ways:

If you have to teach poetry, strike

your blackboard with the chalk of light.


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