Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The Northwest Writing Institute is a place to explore these questions in good company. We are a community of teachers, writers, counselors, and other citizens intent on helping each other write the story of our calling, the resume of our delicious failure, whisper the secrets we are ready to tell, jot the manifesto, proclaim and sing what we don't know to say until we sit down together to write.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
How does poetry make its way in the world?
At a party recently I learned from a friend that the pilot for the TV show "The Riches" ended with the main character reciting a poem by William Stafford. She sent me the link, I checked it out on www.hulu.com, and sure enough, at about minute 55:30 of the first episode, at a party in Louisiana one character recites some lines to another that are the close to "A Story that Could Be True," the title poem of my father's 1978 book by that name. Then the credits roll and we hear Bob Dylan singing "Shelter from the Storm."
With the message from my friend came a copy of the poem she found on the internet:
A Story That Could Be True
If you were exchanged in the cradle and
your real mother died
without ever telling the story
then no one knows your name,
and somewhere in the world
your father is lost and needs you
but you are far away.
He can never find
how true you are, how ready.
When the great wind comes
and the robberies of the rain
you stand on the corner shivering.
The people who go by--
you wonder at their calm.
They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind,
"Who are you really, wanderer?"--
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
"Maybe I'm a king.”
But this copy includes a new last line for the poem, added by someone to make the poem gender-neutral: “Maybe I’m a queen.”
So we have a poem from an old book, with part of the poem recited in a TV show without any mention of the author, and then the poem appears on the web in an “improved” form…and then I find a website where people who heard these lines on TV tracked down the poem, and then found my father’s more recent book The Way It Is, where this poem appears, and where they witness about how important this book is to them.
What if your writing were exchanged in the digital world, and no one knew your name? Maybe yours is the voice to save a stranger’s life, a little at a time.