Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The New Poetry Handbook


The New Poetry Handbook

      by Mark Strand

1 If a man understands a poem,
he shall have troubles.

2 If a man lives with a poem,
he shall die lonely.

3 If a man lives with two poems,
he shall be unfaithful to one.

4 If a man conceives of a poem,
he shall have one less child.

5 If a man conceives of two poems,
he shall have two children less.

6 If a man wears a crown on his head as he writes,
he shall be found out.

7 If a man wears no crown on his head as he writes,
he shall deceive no one but himself.

8 If a man gets angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by men.

9 If a man continues to be angry at a poem,
he shall be scorned by women.

10 If a man publicly denounces poetry,
his shoes will fill with urine.

11 If a man gives up poetry for power,
he shall have lots of power.

12 If a man brags about his poems,
he shall be loved by fools.

13 If a man brags about his poems and loves fools,
he shall write no more.

14 If a man craves attention because of his poems,
he shall be like a jackass in moonlight.

15 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow,
he shall have a beautiful mistress.

16 If a man writes a poem and praises the poem of a fellow overly,
he shall drive his mistress away.

17 If a man claims the poem of another,
his heart shall double in size.

18 If a man lets his poems go naked,
he shall fear death.

19 If a man fears death,
he shall be saved by his poems.

20 If a man does not fear death,
he may or may not be saved by his poems.

21 If a man finishes a poem,
he shall bathe in the blank wake of his passion
and be kissed by white paper.


First published in Harper’s magazine in January 1970, and also in Darker Poems (Atheneum 1970).

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