Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Fishing

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

How does one write a poem? Taking his cue from an ancient Chinese poet, Martin Steingesser of Portland offers this advice.

Fishing by Martin Steingesser

?Sometimes words come hard?they resist me
till I pluck them from deep water like hooked fish??
                                                  --Lu Ji (261-303)
                      You have to be willing
to wait days and days with nothing 
while the far leaves, the sky change
blues and greens, and birdcalls,
wind, river become the sound of thinking.
This line you cast
                           reaches into different music.
A murmur flutters over the water?
                                                     be more still. . .
Sometimes a moment happens
                                                 when what moves
doesn?t, when the trees and grasses
along the riverbank seem to hold their breath,
and it is the stones that breathe. . .
                                      The fish you want
is rising in another world.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2002 Martin Steingesser. Reprinted from Brothers of Morning, Deerbrook Editions, by permission of Martin Steingesser. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.