I’ve taken some mental space, but here it goes again.

This poem created some disagreement in my writers’ group last week where I wrote it as a response to a short poem by Maya Angelou entitled “Wonder.” I won’t box it into my intended meaning by explaining what was going on in my head when I wrote it, even though the prideful part of me is calling out for clarity, is calling out for me to fight back against the negative parts of the response I received. Instead, I’ll accept my role as “artist,” whatever that might mean: I’ll just take a deep breath, leave this here, and walk away.


To be a poet is to fight with all your mortal strength

for immortality.

How selfish, how arrogant, how naïve,

to admit your fear,

to wear it openly,

and proud.


Or is it pure genius,

a shell within a shell,

armor encased in armor,

to admit one thing in order to hide

the even deeper truth,

to throw two dimes in the cup as you

fiddle with the crisp twenty in your pocket.


You fill page after page with words and

pat yourself on the back for your brutal honesty,

but always, always,

there is more you don’t say,

more you could admit,

more of yourself you refuse to give.


To be a poet is to try to live beyond yourself,

to bury treasure in the spaces and commas,

to shed a part of your soul like skin,

emerging pink and raw and new,

a shadow of yourself left behind on the page.


But to really be a poet is to shout in silence,

to cry out existence to an uncaring world,

to dredge the ocean of your being

for a single, solitary pearl.


5 thoughts on “I’ve taken some mental space, but here it goes again.

  1. “It was once said that every person should plant a tree, have a child, and write a book. These all live on after us, insuring a measure of immortality.” Curiously enough this has often been attributed to both the Talmud and Jose Martí, Cuban revolutionary and poet. Regardless, I do believe that writing is leaving a part of yourself behind. I think this does in fact create immortality, which can exist even if not widely read. Perhaps it is a children’s book written for just your children or some other audience or just writing to release emotions you are feeling at the time. All are “valid” ways of writing and all create an element of immortality, either for greater society or merely an audience of one.

  2. I wonder where the disagreement lies? Artists must give small pieces of themselves but it is necessary to keep the larger bits hidden, so that there is always more to give.
    Actually, everyone should do that. Artists just do it more concretely.

    1. The disagreement was whether writing for an audience was the “right” thing to do or not. One gentleman in the group argued that he wrote because he was driven to write, and that he ALWAYS told the complete truth, and that any other reason for writing or creating in general was … disingenuous (read: wrong). I create because I am driven to but I think any artist who doesn’t keep their work secret struggles with the idea of being an “artist,” creating public representations of their inner-most selves and what that means…

  3. I understood the work I think. Immortality is an invincible force and very few writers reach the stage where their words and thoughts touch generations from here on after. Now I don’t want to give the impression that I am an expert for certainly I am not, but a printed or published work will live on forever, the thing is does anybody care and does anyone read it. For that to happen a work must have relevance to immortality. I doubt if Steinbeck, Shakespere , Tolstoy, Twain, Poe,
    Orwell, or Homer, sought immortality. However Plato and Socrates may have, not because they were ego-maniacs, but in search of explanation and truth. It is truth and the grasping of emotion in such a way that it can be transformed into the tangible expression of words that gives a work meaning and relevance. I am not on that order, just offering some insight may have clarity to it. Please accept an invitation to visit marktone.wordpress.com. when time permits and leave a comment for truth is very important to me as well.
    Marcus T. Tolbert

    1. Thanks for reading!

      There is no “understanding” to get, per se, as I wrote the piece in like a half hour, it’s only some of my thoughts about the subject. In Maya Angelou’s poem that we used as a prompt, she touches on the idea that she is famous enough that her poems may, and probably will, outlive her. The poem engendered numerous different responses from agreement to annoyance, all centered around whether the search for immortality through writing is obnoxious or valiant. I think it’s hard, though, to put your work out into the world and NOT think about your audience, NOT hope that someone will remember things of yours that they have read, but it does beg the question: if you’re writing to try and reach an audience, can you really be genuine at the same time? And if you are driven to write, can you also strive for an audience or does that render your writing false? I don’t have the “right” answer to that, that’s just what I was thinking about as I wrote.

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