Friday, April 23, 2021

Poetry Friday: Dear Poet


"I think it is important to be reminded every once in a while that there are 
all kinds of beings having all sorts of experiences that are different from mine." 

"When I put words down on a page, I am listening to their music, their rhythms 
and quiet places, their moods. A poem on the page is like sheet music: it's the score 
for an experience that happens only once it's been played. The instrument is the 
reader's own life and tongue and ears. And just as with music, the poem is never 
exactly the same." 

Jane Hirshfield, in response to Zoe 

(These excerpts are part of the "Dear Poet" collection at 

I didn't have anything planned for Poetry Friday today. April is National Poetry Month and I always have such good intentions. As much as I love poetry, you'd think I'd carve out the time to do something unique and noteworthy for NPM but I always end up being so busy in April. I'm usually teaching for Brave Writer, I'm currently writing another book, and then there's all the other minutiae of life that seems to expand to fill time, no matter how much I try to simplify. I'm resigned to being an NPM failure of sorts. 

This morning, I had the familiar, Oh-my-gosh-it's-already-Poetry-Friday-again feeling. Maybe I'll do something for Poetry Friday related to my birthday, (which is this weekend), I thought. That would be fun and different. Or maybe I'll write something about being too busy to tackle National Poetry Month in precisely the way it deserves to be tackled. 

At, I typed "busyness" into the search bar. That circuitously led me to the beauty of the "Dear Poet" series, specifically to a set of letters written in April of 2016 to Jane Hirshfield. Even more specifically and serendipitously, I landed on a letter from a girl named Zoe, written on my birthday five years ago, to Hirshfield, who sent Zoe a lovely reply, which I hope and have a feeling will be treasured forever by a certain former ninth-grader. 

Zoe is probably in college now, and I hope she is still writing to poets. I'm still busy, still teaching and writing, but somehow Zoe, Jane Hirshfield, and I met at an intersection today. Poetry has a magical way of bringing people together and sparking unexpected conversations. Today, Zoe and Jane have me pondering "all kinds of beings having all sorts of experiences that are different from mine," and "the score for an experience that happens only once it's been played." They've got me thinking about the nature of busyness, and the beauty of solitude, of a thing that "slips into the heart/without hurry, as if it had never been." 

To read the poem that prompted Zoe to write to Jane Hirshfield, go here, 

Go here for all the 2016 "Dear Poet" letters, and see one from an eleventh-grade girl who begins, "I feel that you are the kind of person who would understand what it's like to be overwhelmed by the very act of being."


The roundup this week is at Reading to the Core

(Photo courtesy of Erik Karits at Unsplash.) 


jama said...

Love this post -- Jane's poem, Zoe's letter, Jane's reply, the fox pic! Such beautiful inspiring words and thoughts (and since we see foxes almost every day, I'm especially thankful for Jane's poem, which is new to me). Thank you for all, and have a very Happy Birthday!!! (You are a gift!)

tanita✿davis said...

This would be the BEST assignment on both ends, for me as a student, and for me as a teacher. Why did we never do anything like this???

Tabatha said...

Happy Birthday!!! Thank you for pondering busyness and poetry with us today. I agree with Tanita that this is a wonderful assignment.

Ruth said...

Happy birthday! And you are very far from a failure.

ReadyWriter said...

Happy Birthday, most-definitely-not-a-failure Karen! 🎉

Linda B said...

Happy Birthday, Karen. You may have thought this was not as you meant it to be, yet it is a beautiful & thoughtful reminder that each of us are different & are meeting life as we can, the best that can be in this moment. I loved each part, making me smile at the end of a long day, ready for a nice evening and remembering Zoe's letter and that "rusty shadow". Thank you!

Mary Lee said...

Happy Birthday!
I'm with Tanita -- why did we never do this? Even more importantly -- why did my students never do this? For me, there's still time, and letters to write. Maybe even to Jane Hirshfield.

Cathy said...

Ha! I know that Poetry Friday feeling. Since retiring just a bit over a month ago, I find I am able to carve a bit more time though it doesn't seem to result in better poetry or prose. Oh well. It's fun. I think your, "Oh no, it's PF," moments go fantastically well. This is a beautiful post. I am headed out to follow the links and see what I can learn.

Karen Edmisten said...

Jama, thank you! You are a gift, too.

Tanita, Tabatha, and Mary Lee — yes, it's never too late to write our letters, or to suggest it to others in our lives.

Ruth and ReadyWriter, thanks. :D

Linda, thanks for your take on my lack of NPM activity as part of the tapestry of differences among us all. I like that, and I'll take it. ;)

Karen Edmisten said...

Cathy, looks like we were posting at the same time and I almost missed your comment! :) Thanks for the kind words. You're right — sometimes the best moments come out of the last-minute stuff. :)

Thanks for stopping!

Elisabeth said...

I love your description of your experience with the poems, and the letters about them, as intersections. This post and the links in it have given me my own poetic intersections of experience today - thank you :-).

Bridget Magee said...

You are the antithesis of failure, Karen, as you navigate reading poetry and how it relates to this 'act of being'. Happy (belated) birthday - celebrate you! You deserve it! :)

Karen Edmisten said...

Elisabeth and Bridget, thank you, friends! :)

And P.S.: I did have a wonderful birthday. :D