Video of Poem: “How to Read a Poem” plus Update

I am not sure what to think of this video. I certainly did not give permission for it to be used, nor did I approve of the final product. But I would welcome all opinions, should anyone wish to share. Please do not click on Like or Dislike buttons to give opinions. That only tells me you dislike my posting it, not the video itself…But maybe I am too sensitive.

I see that it will not insert directly here so I am placing the link to it here instead.



First, forget everything you have learned,

that poetry is difficult,

that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,

with your high school equivalency diploma

and steel-tipped boots,

your white collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meanings hidden from you:

the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage

enough to leap from the edge

and trust.

Treat a poem like dirt,

humus rich and heavy from the garden.

Later on it will become the fat tomatoes

and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,

language saying what is true

doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.

Someday a book of poems may open in your hands

like a daffodil offering its cup

to the sun.

When you can name five poets

without including Bob Dylan,

when you exceed your quota

and don’t even notice,

close this manual.


You can now read poetry.


As for the update, well, I sent most of the important material from which I derived the last blog post about the restraints episode to the Office of Protection and Advocacy and by the afternoon of that very same day, I got a call from them telling me that they were going to do an investigation! Not maybe, but yes. This was quite a surprise. I did not expect to hear from them so soon, much less so definitively. They do not take every case after all,  but pick and choose from the many complaints that come their way. I have run into so many roadblocks that I was afraid that there too I would be shoved aside for other more important matters. But no, I think they too found this matter outrageous.

So I will keep you posted as to what happens. They want access to my chart, which I will give them, but I will also fax them the pages from my journal too, as I want them to have contradictory accounts to counter what the “official” record says. Though that says enough that is not quite legal by itself.

I have been cleaning my apartment for 2 days and it is still a wreck, but I need to frame all my artwork for a show I will be doing in early November, at OpenStudio Hartford and I cannot do anything until I have space in my apartment. It is getting better, at least there are “paths” to walk through! But there is still a lot to be done, and I am already very tired of cleaning. How on earth do I make such an atomic mess of things so often? So needless to say I cannot write  much today, but I did want to let you know of this latest development.

TTFN or TaTa For Now

4 thoughts on “Video of Poem: “How to Read a Poem” plus Update”

  1. Not sure where this poem is trying to put poets on any special plane here, but in any event I entirely agree about poets being but ordinary people. Anyhow, thanks for your comments.


  2. I may have overlooked the notion of the beginner a bit but I just don’t understand people trying to put poets on a special plane. (And, I’m a poet. I have sworn an oath against artistic prose.)

    If your words help to bring more people to reading poetry that is a good thing. I would like to see more poetry readers in America and hopefully better poets as a result of their reading. I just pray that our young readers will be discerning with their tastes.


  3. Thanks KJPGarcia, I appreciate your comments. I myself have begun to really hate the video as I think it has nothing whatsoever to do with the poem…But In terms of the poem itself, I think you forget that it was written for “beginners,” one, and two, that many people, educated or not, are very much afraid to read poetry at all. Reading poetry for the majority of people, at least in the USA so I have found as I do my readings and talks, does require courage, and it does require that leap of faith that says one can read it and that one can understand it, that it won’t be “too deep for me.” I tell novice readers — and yes, that is what they are — to start with poets like Billy Collins, because whatever you may think of him, he is accessible. It does no good to tell someone who won’t read poetry to start with Gerard Manley Hopkins or, for that matter, with the “cuneiform missing from Gilgamesh.” If they find that they can indeed read the easier poems and poets, well, that is the first step. But you don’t get to the Russian novelists in first grade primers, and you don’t get to Hopkins except by way of a step by step process. To force someone to read, well, John Ashberry, before she or he has learned simply to like and not be afraid of poetry in general, that is only a sure-fired way to scare them off poetry altogether. My goal is to widen the audience. To scare readers away from reading poetry is to do just what their high school teachers likely did way back when. So I stand by my poem and I know that it hits the mark with the people it was meant to.


  4. Well, I don’t know what I thought of the video nor the poem itself. I guess the performance was likeable but the sentiment was not.

    There’s no courage involved in reading a poem. I’m tired of this sort of thinking. There’s no leap of faith. Poetry merely requires time. Time to read. Time to think -mostly think because sometimes there are gaps to fill in with your own imagination and memories, dreams, etc etc. Also, to act like poets turn things holy is nonsense because we also demystify the utmost in metaphysical at times.

    Also never surrender to a poem. Let it hit you and hit you and don’t back down from it. Take all it can give and then say ‘I agree’ or ‘I disagree.’

    But, poetry can be treated like dirt. Some poetry is great fertilizer and some is little more than dust on top of over good stuff and should merely be discarded. But, with that written, read lots of poetry as much as possible until you can separate the great from mediocre or find in each piece something to hang onto. Be an archaeologist with poetry; dust each piece off hoping to find the valuable relic, the bone from the missing link, the cuneiform missing from Gilgamesh, the . . .


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