Words: A Poem

By

(From the Bench at the Bend in the Trail)

Remember: each word is a mystery,
A thing to be handled like fire or love.

Tramp like a fool through the whispering wood
And you’ll never lay eyes on the singer.

Carefully, carefully, stand back and wait.
Watch where the word goes, behold how it moves:

Its nuance and hue, its contour and weight–
It flits like a finch, just over the page.

Only at last, when it trusts you enough,
It alights and allows you to write it.

Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


15 Comments

  1. Paula Shaw

    For some reason, this poem reminds me of your song, “Let There Be Light”. Love both!

    🙂

  2. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    AP, I came upon this Lewis quote and thought of you:

    “I think the only hope for poetry now lies in lowering [the poet’s] status. Unless he speedily returns to the workmanlike humility of his great predecessors and submits to the necessity of interesting and pleasing as a preliminary to doing anything else, the art of poetry will disappear from among us altogether.”

    Your “workmanlike humility” when you write is inspiring. Thanks for this.

  3. Profile photo of Jonathan Rogers

    Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    AP, it is my policy not to like poems or stories about writing (or songs about songwriting or movies about moviemaking). I’ve decided, however, to make an exception in this case. This is a good poem. (I also made an exception for Gullahorn’s “Simple Man”).

    Talk to us about the meter: there are 10 syllables per line, but it’s not iambic pentameter. Four (sometimes three) beats per line, which makes the poetry flit like a finch.

    How did you get so clever? That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way; I actually want you to explain to the Rabbit Room readers how you got so clever.

  4. Jaclyn

    “It alights and allows you to write it” This leaves me breathless.

    Thanks for reminding me to write with “workmanlike humility” (ah, thanks, Ron, for quoting CS Lewis). To think, with words God planted forests and set the heavenly bodies in space. Somehow He trusts me with those words, which I can only borrow to make things that hopefully reflect my Creator.

  5. Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

    Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Thanks for the kind words, folks.

    In answer to Jonathan’s and Alex’s questions, I’ve posted a handful of poems here in the RR over the last couple of years, and I have a dozen or so scribbled in my journal. Poetry used to mystify me. It wasn’t until I was exposed to Billy Collins and Wendell Berry’s poetry that I began to pay attention. Their poems strike me as unpretentious: beautiful and deep without requiring the reader to have a masters in renaissance verse.

    As for being clever, I’m not telling. I can’t divulge my secrets, or we’d have a bunch of clever folks running around willy nilly, and that isn’t an option. But seriously. All I can say is that this is the third draft of the poem. The first was written at the bench in the bend in the trail, in my journal. The second was written a few weeks later when I transcribed it to my computer. Before I posted it for public consumption I revised it further. It wasn’t until the last draft that the finch fluttered into the poem. And when I read it aloud to myself (a requirement), I noticed a few problems with the beats. It was written in 10-syllable lines, but the beats were sloppy and didn’t feel right coming out of my mouth.

    For example: “Its nuance and hue, its contour and weight” was originally “Its hue, its nuance, its tone, and its weight”. The first feels better. I hardly know why. It also looks better, come to think of it.

    The last thing I’ll say is that I wrote this poem on November 9th, 2009. I was on the verge of a Christmas tour and knew that on January 18 I was leaving with the Captains Courageous to make the new album. I had a lot of songs to write and/or finish, and I felt pressure. The poem was written to remind myself that songs shouldn’t be trapped, bagged and shot. They’re more like living things that inhabit the woods and will only come to you if you’re patient and your intentions are good.

  6. Joy C

    Andrew, Thanks for responding to the Qs.

    Re: “songs shouldn’t be trapped, bagged and shot. They’re more like living things that inhabit the woods and will only come to you if you’re patient and your intentions are good.” … That also holds for preparing a sermon or a Bible study. I pray hard for the transcendent to come through, for the presence of God the Holy Spirit to settle down in our little cement brick razor wire encircled rooms, into the hearts of our men and women. I feel like a mama bird, working to supply semi-digested food for those in her care. And then I throw in a song w/ words and scripture references, often one of yours. You have a new crop of fans here, btw.

    The poem itself touched my heart w/ God’s presence in the same way. Thanks.

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