When my students complain they have writer's block, I steal a line from William Stafford: "If you're having trouble writing, lower your standards." That usually works – write some crap to get to the good stuff. I actually try not to mention poetry factories or Randall Jarrell. www.jackpowers13.com/poetry/
The Poetry Teacher
In the great poetry factories of China,
I tell my students, each poet,
must produce a poem every ten minutes.
Students hunch over blue-lined papers.
They clutch pens like wild quills.
Randall Jarrell, I say, said poets
stand in thunderstorms
hoping to get hit
five or six times in their lives.
But the room is cold, say the students
and the water colder.
We are seeding the clouds, I say.
We are speeding the clashing fronts.
We are standing to our hips in water.
They scribble like buoys caught in a headwind.
Our factory is a ship, I say,
hunting for storms in the sea.
I roll marbles in each hand
to trouble their cadence.
See the lightning in the distance!
But we are sinking, say the students.
You must learn to swim, I say,
To breathe under water.
Glub glub, say the students.
The fish have little flippers, I say,
and the ocean is vast.
Water magnifies their panicked faces.
Don't flail your arms, I say,
but they can't hear me.
White paper rectangles rise, furl, unfurl.
Pens sink like harpoons into the deep.
I squint against the shock of lightning
illuminating skeletons of mackerel
floundering against the black sea.
Originally published in Clackamas Literary Review (Winter 2012)
©2017 Jack Powers
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