1. That movement in the brush, the chance reflection in a pane of glass, that blue comb you found on a gravel path, the person your peripheral vision almost caught—these are the spermatozoa of poems. All they lack are the reactions of the egg in the womb of consciousness.
2. Like the smell that precedes rainfall, the “scent” of an imminent poem will make itself known to a poet. What the poet does with it will almost never live up to what was offered initially, but that is true in the realization of nearly all ideals.
3. The essential difference between poetry and prose has never been adequately defined, aside from offhand attempts. Perhaps it has to do with the differing intensity of desperation felt by each category of writers. The poet feels the need to gather the final issue of smoke from a doused candle wick before it dies out; while the writer of prose has the topic fixed in a virtual or real outline, and therefore has the leisure to write on until it is adequately explored.
4. The room is reddened by the maple tree’s fall flames. This leads the eye to see it through the window. This is not Plato’s analogy. We can see the tree itself, but we must see both the wall enlightened and the substantial tree in order for there to arise a poem.
5. Poetry is the dessert, the plum pudding perhaps, of literature in that one can consume only so much at a time without experiencing the cloying effect of satiety. A reader may pick up a book of poems and read it cover-to-cover without stopping, but this invites the sort of illness that aborts a literary experience which was in the making.
6. When children have the freedom to play together, there will come a moment when they realize a new idea for play is needed. If a bright child among them comes up with something intriguing, their play time goes on. If not, the group breaks apart. That bright child might become a scientist, but there exists also the possibility of a poet in the making; for poetry is play, and not with language alone. It is a game that reaches halfway toward becoming a palpable object.
8. Hardly anyone has what might be unanimously voted a “perfect body.” So most adults are ashamed of, or merely bored with, their own while they are fascinated by the bodies of a few others. This is analogous to the poet who strives to see an old topic or trope as if new, glowing in both novelty and (if possible) beauty.
9. Our ancestors somehow taught themselves to cure olives for food and to fire shaped clay into vessels. They looked at deer and bears and saw that they were warm enough even on cold days, so took their hides for clothing. Nearly everything they touched they transformed from the natural state into something that was comforting or edible. So it is with what the poet observes, then transforms into a thing that is closer to what humans need. Rattlesnake venom, given the attention of the bio-chemist, can become antivenin.
10. To be as swift in thinking as the wind, as filled with light as a flame, yet calm as planet earth, and as fluent as water in a stream—to be inhabited by these four is to risk being transformed from an otherwise ordinary person into a poet.
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John J. Brugaletta has seven volumes of his poetry in print, the latest being Selected Poems (Future Cycle Press, 2019). He is professor emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, where he taught courses in the writing of poetry.