Poetry and the Sound of the Pacific Ocean

Nancy Flynn Stream of Consciousness Archive, Writing 1 Comment


I am in Newport, Oregon for the Northwest Poets’ Concord this weekend, a veritable grassroots gathering of the poetic tribes, many who, like me, are not affiliated with academia. How refreshing! There is nothing like going to sleep with the sliding glass doors of your hotel room open and the unceasing sound of the waves hitting the sand your lullaby…

Two other poets and I presented a panel on Friday afternoon about what it has been like returning to poetry as “late bloomers.” Later there was a reading of ars poetica, e.g.,  poems written about the subject of poetry itself. I read this poem by W.S. Merwin—which isn’t really about the poet, John Berryman, even thought the title might lead you to believe that:


I will
tell you what he told me

in the
years just after the war

as we then

the second
world war


don’t lose
your arrogance yet he said

you can do
that when you’re older

lose it
too soon and you may

replace it with vanity


just one
time he suggested

the usual order

of the
same words in a line of verse

why point
out a thing twice


suggested I pray to the Muse

get down
on my knees and pray

there in the corner and he

said he
meant it literally


it was in the
days before the beard

and the
drink but he was deep

in tides
of his own through which he sailed

sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop


he was far
older than the dates allowed for

much older
than I was he was in his thirties

he snapped
down his nose with an accent

I think he
had affected in England


as for
publishing he advised me

to paper
my wall with rejection slips

his lips
and the bones of his long fingers trembled

with the
vehemence of his views about poetry


he said
the great presence

permitted everything and transmuted it

in poetry
was passion

was genius and he praised movement and invention


I had
hardly begun to read

I asked
how can you ever be sure

that what
you write is really

any good
at all and he said you can’t


you can’t
you can never be sure

you die
without knowing

anything you wrote was any good

if you
have to be sure don’t write

The public domain image above is a hand-tinted picture postcard of Yaquina Bay, Newport, Oregon, circa 1915.

Nancy Flynn
Follow me

Comments 1

Leave a Reply