Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: How to Catch a Poem

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

How does a poet track and catch a poem? In today?s column, award-winning poet Robert Siegel of South Berwick explains, offering up in the process the lovely poem he caught.

How to Catch a Poem by Robert Siegel

It begins with one leaf rubbing against another,
a light, a rift in a cloud, the weight of a feather
spiraling down, a ripple on the water?
its shape rising from the dark and fusing
with a sound, a touch, a peculiar scent.  Now it begins
to show plumage, the gleam of a pelt, pausing
to stare with an ebony eye.  One twitch?it?s gone,
fled into that darker wood behind the eyes.  Stunned,
you trace its tracks on paper, stumble,
pick yourself up and go down each sly
cheat of a path vanishing in a thicket, lie
still, listening for its breath, a twig breaking
where you think?.Avoid sleep, follow all day,
at night listen for its cry under the moon.  Finally you may
gather enough to show its presence.  Delay
finishing what you have.  Take your time.  Return home
and frame the cast of its footprint: that is the poem.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2001 by Robert Siegel. Reprinted from A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems, Paraclete Press, 2006, by permission of Robert Siegel. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.