The Mind of a Poet

April 30, 2010 at 8:12 pm (The Mind of a Poet)

Poetry, for me, is a medium–much like paint or clay. It is a vehicle for making meaning.  In previous posts, I have made references to my belief that our entire lives are both part of and the results of our personal processes for making meaning–for seeking significance, understanding, and progression. For those of us driven to attempt to write poetry, it is a part of the process of living, of understanding and processing our world, ourselves, our choices–our lives and the lives of others. Thus, any aspect of daily life is a likely topic out of which the elements of poetry can be pulled together to relate to other things. The tools of metaphor, simile, allegory, imagery, etc. can be brought to bear in regard to any part of daily life. My personal belief is that the images in the telling that are the most basic, the most common are the bones of the poems that walk the truest walk, that work the best. This particular poem is about learning to float. However, clearly, it is about much more than that.  It was written after spending the week on Long Boat Key last Summer with my mother, my aunt and [one of her daughters] my cousin.  My aunt never learned to swim and, part of the week, was spent with my cousin and I teaching my aunt to float.  That process inspired this poem. I hope that it works well and that you enjoy it. 

Learning To Float

If you give yourself
over to it, the salt water
will lift you up
and hold you,
            liquid safety laps your ears,
            your breasts, your knees; you are
            suspended.  Pelicans, sand pipers
            and gulls swoop and dive
            around you—this is
            all there is. 

If you give yourself
to the sway of it, the wind
will cleanse you, toss
your hair and wrap you
in an airy blanket:
            your weight is lessened, the ground
            is firmer as if your feet
            are bare.  You breathe; the leaves
            seem to sing; crickets dance
            around you—this is
            all there is. 

If you give yourself freedom
to step out, the way becomes
yours, not the path
of another, steps only you
can make:
            hard stones, cracked shells are teachers;
            changing waves, bringers of balance.
            Others share, but cannot walk
            your walk.  Like tides, each step
            increases you—this ground is
            all there is. 

If you let yourself
surrender, the love of others
will lift you up, wash you,
and hold you,
            your weight is lessened; the way
            is as sure as your bare feet.  You
            may be shaken, but will not fall;
            like your father’s arms, the universe
            is all around you—this life is
            all there is. 

NOTE:  This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.


  1. Scintillectual said,

    Mmmm…this was one of the first poems you shared with me and it is so lovely in its imagery. I like knowing the context in which it was inspired now. Darling, you’ve such a way with words. Just one of the 8,734,209,873,862,792 things I love about you.

    • androgynonamous said,

      Sugar, you flatter me…and it feels good [HA!]. I would say that my wordsmithing pales in comparison, especially when it comes to spinning a good story, but you would scoff and make that face at me. But it is true. I love being involved with a woman who can write–and who has such well developed discernment regarding other writing! I love you.

  2. Blazer said,

    It is possible that I am becoming a fan of poetry. This is new, I have always felt that poetry took to much effort on my part to understand. The poems you have shared thus far, make relating to them effortless. Not sure you will see that as a complement, but from a simpleton like me that is how it is meant.

    • androgynonamous said,

      My dear friend, the last thing you are is simple minded. And, I do indeed take what you said as a complement. In fact, I wrote a poem in 2007 about the kind of poetry I will and will not write. This comment from you is the reason I write; it is the kind of response for which I have worked and prayed. While I appreciate and am capable of writing that “other” poetry, I do not wish to and work to not do it–it is actually where my head goes and I have to work to be less academic. Most poets–especially many of those whom I like–write what I refer to as poetry for poets; their readership is just that: professors, other poets/writers, students, and the overly educated. My hope has been–for so long–to be able to write good, sound poetry that does what poetry should do from a literary stand point, but that is accessible to anyone who reads it and, particularly, to people who normally might not read poetry. Your comment makes me feel good inside that place that is driven to write and makes me feel I might be achieving my goals. I have, at least, done so with one person…thank you so very much! I am most grateful.

    • Scintillectual said,

      I, too, have never been a huge fan of poetry. Certainly I can quote random lines stuck in my head from years of creative writing classes but, for the most part, I find poetry rather pretentious and rarely understandable. A few years ago my mother handed me a book of poetry by Billy Collins, who had recently been named U.S. Poet Laureate. I expected the worst and found one of the best. Honest slices of daily living in words that I could understand. Then, I found Li again. And she writes much the same way. If you are becoming interested in poetry (and truly, our DPR is a master at what she does) then I’d suggest you also give Collins a shot. In the meantime, I’m so happy and proud that my sweetheart has done what she has set out to do (of course, she always does!). Peace, Scin.

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