Howard Kogan

Advice to Poets

A literary critic once said that poets should not only show what they think or feel but show who they are as they think and feel, but I don’t remember who said it and I’m not sure that’s what they said…

In the interest of currying favor with any possible critic
I’ll admit I’m imitative, envious, self-seeking, exploitative,
appropriating words and ideas, even whole lives, I’m
a thinker without a thought, a pencil without a point.

I march into the poetry wars with Sylvia trudging along faintly
smelling of gas and Alfred galloping on his carousel horse.
I find Waterloo on every page.  Anyone can be defeated by
the Times Sunday crossword, but Waterloo requires Napoleon.

The truth is a sty in the eye of the beholder, a wave-particle
duality conjugated into a multiplicity, each of us clinging
to our own strobe lit version.  Or the truth is a magician
holding a bouquet of flowers that becomes a dove,
that’s put under a top hat, when the hat is tipped there’s
a rabbit where the dove was, then tipped again,
there’s a chicken and now the magician is holding two
eggs, slams them together and fills the air with confetti.

I’m telling you this because we were born fish out
of water, drowning in the thin air, we had to became
magicians, mirrors reflecting an infinite set of selves,
but never knowing the truth until the mirror cracks.

My advice to poets is never use the word truth and while
you’re at it never use love either, that’s advice you can take
to the bank, but watch out for pickpockets, they have no need
of truth, but everyone steals love:  pickpockets, magicians,
people who love the truth, they need love most of all.

What’s coming next is so trite and predictable,
I’m pretending to be embarrassed, I’m giving you
fair warning – never take your eyes off my mouth.
I’m telling you this because the truth is I love you
and despite yourself, you believe me.


Howard KoganHoward J. Kogan is a psychotherapist and poet.  His poems have appeared in Still Crazy, Occupoetry, Poetry Ark, Writer’s Haven, Farming MagazineLiterary Gazette, Pathways, and Up the River.  His book of poems, Indian Summer, was published in 2011.

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