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Where Do Poems Come From?

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Where do poems come from? I believe they happen when several insights come together to make an explosion. For several months I’d been reading a wonderful new translation of Lao Tzu by Ursula Le Guin. These were the hum in the back of my mind. I found myself walking the labyrinth at Rancho La Puerta in Mexico. It was endlessly raining, and a crowd of black crows flapped overhead. As I followed the labyrinth in a walking meditation, some lines came into my head:I put my toeOn the labyrinth’s edge,Hoping to walkThe circle of my life.I scribble these down in a damp notebook, wondering whether anything will come of them. Walking back to shelter from the rain, I hear the cawing of crows and look up to see them circling above in the rainy sky. Why are there so many crows, and where is the carrion that draws them? I think of all the deaths that have saddened me in the last few years. Eventually, these elements come together.Do these notes “explain” the poem? I doubt it. They are simply markers along the way.Sometimes there are many markers and no poem. If the elements come together to tell you something you did …

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