Don't Start Me Talking

In my General Theory of Poetry, here is “Point #4) Poetry reveals the truths, little and large, about our lives and the world.”

[Brief Aside: Last Saturday, April 7, 2018, I presented my annual National Poetry Month Poetry Reading at the Hawai‘i State Public Library, so I cut myself a week of blogslack, so if you missed me, I’m back.]

In Lee Child’s Never Go Back, Jack Reacher says, “Poetry can be deeply satisfying.” I agree, and not just because Jack Reacher is nearly a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than me (except when portrayed by Tom Cruise). No, I agree because, as is so often true, Reacher’s right.

In one of my favorite blue songs, Sonny Boy Williamson sings, “Don’t start me talking: I’ll tell everything I know.” Well, telling everything we know is also the job of poets. Poets say whatever they think, know, believe, or hope is the truth from the beginning, and then, even more significantly, tell more.

That deep satisfaction comes because in good poems, the truth is out there and in there. No matter what you learned in school, there are no hidden meanings in poems, nor should there be. Good poets do not try to hide meaning. Poems are not mysteries. Poems are not puzzles. Poems are not riddles or secrets. Poems are not stuffed with symbols.

Nothing in poems should ever be hidden from readers for a deeply satisfying reason: poems do not conceal; poems reveal.

To reveal means to state the fierce and fair, tender and intense, accurate and authentic, direct and detailed truth. Life has enough mystery without poets whimsically adding even more, so when I write, I follow the magnificent and insightful advice penned in the Course Poems by Lew Welch: “Guard the Mysteries! Constantly reveal Them!”

Eric Shaffer