A Poet’s Advice

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A Poet’s Advice

e. e. cummings

 

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through
words.

This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel—but that’s
thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is
feeling—not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single
human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think
or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the
moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night
and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest
battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working
just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possible
imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like
somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the
time—and whenever we do it, we are not poets.

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and
working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem,
you’ll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do
something easy, like learning how to blow up the world—unless you’re
not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn’t.

It’s the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

 

 

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