Tuesday Poem – “Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?” by Ron Koertge

Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave
your house or apartment. Go out into the world.

It’s all right to carry a notebook but a cheap
one is best, with pages the colour of weak tea
and on the front a kitten or a space ship.

Avoid any enclosed space where more than
three people are wearing turtlenecks. Beware
any snow-covered chalet with deer tracks
across the muffled tennis courts.

Not surprisingly, libraries are a good place to write.
And the perfect place in a library is near an aisle
where a child a year or two old is playing as his
mother browses the ranks of the dead.

Often he will pull books from the bottom shelf.
The title, the author’s name, the brooding photo
on the flap mean nothing. Red book on black, gray
book on brown, he builds a tower. And the higher
it gets, the wider he grins.

You who asked for advice, listen: When the tower
falls, be like that child. Laugh so loud everybody
in the world frowns and says, “ Shhhh.”

Then start again.

From Fever, 2006
Red Hen Press
Copyright 2006 by Red Hen Press. All rights reserved. Reproduced here with permission.

I first came across this poem on Poetry 180. It struck a chord straight away…so much humour and yet wise. So down to earth but so imaginative. A wonderful poem for all writers not just beginners. It reminds me to take a breath, relax and embrace joy… an important constituent of writing in my mind.

Thanks to Red Hen Press who obtained permission from Ron for me to publish this poem here. Thank you Ron.

Ron Koertge is the author of many celebrated novels, including Stoner & Spaz, Strays, and The Brimstone Journals, all American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults; Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, and American Library Association Top Ten Sports Books for Youth Selection; and The Arizona Kid, an American Library Association pick for “one of the ten funniest books of the year.” A two-time winner of the PEN Literary Award for Children’s Literature, Ron lives in South Pasadena, California. To read more go to Ron’s website here  To read about Ron’s poetry go here

His recent books of poetry include Fever (Red Hen Press, 2007), Indigo (Red Hen Press, 2009), Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses (Candlewick Press, 2012), and The Ogre’s Wife (Red Hen Press, 2013).
Ron Koertge
Ron Koertge

‘Comfortable in both free verse and received form, Koertge writes poetry marked by irreverent yet compassionate humor and a range of personas and voices.’ (The Poetry Foundation)  To read about Ron’s poetry on his website go here

And now please return to Tuesday Poem’s Hub where Janis Freegard has chosen a must read poem by Marty Smith called Agnus Dei.