you have to be a poet

You have to be a poet (a proof by mathematical induction)

You have to be a poet to do just about anything.


You have to be a poet to translate another’s words. Only poets care enough about language to clearly convey one person’s thought to a different person’s understanding. Any other type of translator will blur the message. The best translators are then as transparent as ghosts. And the best ghosts are poets.


You have to be a poet to write a book. The word “poet” comes from the Greek poiein, which comes from the Indo-European pie, which means “to make, to pile, to build.” Writing a book takes a lot of force. Calling a novel in progress a building under construction is quite the compliment. More likely an unfinished manuscript is a heap of words, a pile of ideas, an ever deepening puddle gazing upon the sky above with eyes to one day be as deep as the infinity it reflects. So to finish that damn book already you have to take action, stack sentence upon sentence. And to do this you have to be a poet. All writers are poets.


It follows that you have to be a poet to do a lot of things. Poets are artists. There is the art of war. There is the art of cooking. There is the art of making sex. Anyone with half a brain (and many only meet this minimum) knows that to do anything worthwhile dutifully it must be done artfully as well. Even scientists revel in the comparison that their profession is art. Yes you have to be a poet to be a scientist (who among us exercises a more calculated language?). To eat. To feed. To breathe. To snort. To thirst. To spark. To cleave. To halt. To gasp. To shiver. To explode and explore. You have to be a poet. You have to be a poet to live, because Life as anything but a poet isn’t living, it’s existing. And who would rather exist over live?


All these verbs, even “to live,” are cobble stones compared to the Stonehenge that is TO LOVE. You have to be a poet to love. Love requires abandon, guile, forethought, rescue, the ability to stare up at a rain cloud, the miracle of flight, at least one sense at first. “A kelson of the creation is love,” wrote a poet once, seeking the joint that ties all acts, including the knot within himself that tied him to all selves. You have to be a poet to love, because to love is precisely to feel what connects you to another, the poet’s vocation.


But love the kelson connects not just like with like, but like with unlike, good with bad (how often are we confused). You have to be a poet to do some pretty bad things too, but we shan’t waste a word to detail these. Poets do not waste words.


Harder than evil is forgiveness; you have to be a poet to forgive. Forgiveness takes vast amounts of humility. Forgiveness empties the mind and pours the heart. Forgiveness is a faculty of the poet par excellence.


Exhale. You have to be a poet to let go. Someone who cannot share, who cannot unleash nor hand down nor say “goodbye” from one’s chest, is not a poet. To stand tall after your partner rides away on a horse into the sunset is to be a poet. To keep from debasing yourself after a relationship turns sour is to be a poet. Inhale.


To give up the ghost, yes, to do this too, you have to be a poet. Only poets die. Everyone else waits. To die is to go from “no” to “yes,” and that is one edit only a poet can make. Yes.


Everything. You have to be a poet to do everything. Except one thing:


You don’t have to be a poet to write a poem.

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