Marge Piercy

Teaching scales 

I have learned from workshop students

there are 2 schools of teaching poetry:

The Phil Levine school when that fine poet

tells his students buzz off; become a chef,

a night watchman, go into shellfish farming;

a slug has as much gift with words, kid.

And the Etheridge Knight school.  How can you

tell them all there's something great in their diarrhea in words

i asked him once.  He said, look, writing poetry

keeps them off the streets.  Better they should

write even bad poetry than hold up 7/11s

or shoot up before shooting a mark

to score their next hit.  i decided Etheridge

was right and just as even a numb fingered

pianist such as I was in childhood, banging

the ivories

and leaning on the pedal to fudge my wrong notes

gave me an ear for listening.  I know how good a Horowitz is

because my fingers were sausages.  So I figure

even bad poets are learning something about words and word music

and maybe other poets' words will sing

like dope-drunk

canaries in their tutored ears.

Poetry seldom hurts anyone and contrary to Shelley,

we are not legislators acknowledged or un

of all the horrors

in this bleeding dying world.


Marge Piercy 

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