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Making a Poem: 
Some Thoughts  About Poetry  and  the People Who
Write It

by  Miller Williams
Louisiana State University Press. © 2006, 127 pgs. 
ISBN: 13  978-0-8071-3132-9 (pbk.)

A Review by Ernie Wormwood

Your assignment is to read one book about poets and poetry—this one by Miller Williams.  You resist.  “Why?” you protest.  Is it because he’s the father of Lucinda Williams?  Is it because he was inaugural poet for President Clinton’s second swearing-in? Or because he’s the author, editor, or translator of thirty-three books?

No, it’s because the first chapter alone is enough to change how you see poetry.  It may change how you see your life.  Titled “Nobody Plays the Piano, but We Like to Have It in the House,”  Williams tells us to play it or get a laser CD.  He says the poet in us is crippled early when we are conditioned “to expect an answer whenever there is a question.”  Poetry opens us up, “ we come by the experience of the poem…to an insight, an awareness about people that we didn’t have before.”  Through metaphor poetry creates a kinship between things we may never have thought about together.

From Dylan Thomas:
            And I must enter again the round           
            Zion of the water bead
            and the synagogue of the ear of corn

From T.S.Eliot:
            Let us go then, you and I
            When the evening is spread out against the sky
            Like a patient etherized upon a table.

Williams explores how a poem might remind us of compassion, that everyone we meet is not simply good or bad, everyone we meet is a battlefield.  Poetry reminds of the difference between just stopping and coming to a close, and that we can afford to give up everything but beginnings.

Read on about the line in poetry, rhyme and meter, the value of poetry in a technological age, and even “writing your own poem.”    We are battlefields.  Begin.

Ernie Wormwood lives in Leonardtown, Maryland.  She will have work this fall in the anthology Poem Revised from Marion Street Press and in 2008 in a tribute to Walt Whitman from Allbooks entitled Primal Sanities.  She recently appeared on Grace Cavalieri’s program for the Library of Congress, The Poet and the Poem, which can be heard at http://www.loc.gov/poetry/poetpoem.html

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