A poet sometimes has a fear of form,
of glaring rules and too long hours of practice —
all for what? Success just means a chance
to wear the chains and let yourself be bound
by someone else’s thoughts, by what they feel
is proper and poetical and right.
And who are they to tell me what to write?
My soul will never wear a uniform,
my art can only come from what I feel.
And what I feel does not include a practice
of subservience to poets bound
to shun delights that come from letting chance
impose its fancy on one’s art. By “chance”
I mean those whims that strike from left and right.
We know not where they come from or are bound
but think this mystery may yet inform
in some vague way what we may call our practice,
both of poetry and life. But feel
more deeply how emotions come to fill
you — crowds, desires, advertising, chance
encounters, music blaring. So, in practice
you will find that you’re not always right
to trust your gut, for who knows what may form
your fancies from these inputs that abound.
It’s when we do not know that we are bound
that we’re most caught. So, though perhaps you feel
at first you absolutely can’t perform
with such restrictions, try. Just take a chance
on sonnets or sestinas, on a rite
enacted over centuries of practice.
Though you’re stiff at first and out of practice,
You’ll improve yourself by leaps and bounds.
You’ll see that, far from giving up your rights
and freedoms, now in poetry you feel
a solid leverage, a boost, a chance
to bring ideas to new and higher forms.
So practice constantly until you feel
no longer bounded by the whims of chance,
but free within the rightness of your form.