Letter to a Young Poet

The fall of a girl’s hair, the flare of a skirt –
the merciless daily things that break your heart
are there for you to learn your skills from. The hurt
of living is what stings us into art.

Cool your desires to ice, then start to play.
Compose it all like music: use what you need:
secrets; strange worlds; failed love; friends gone away.
Each poem’s a rock-hard crystal, grown from a seed.

Dig down and find the past: dead kings; old war;
wonder-filled days; riding your first steam train;
mysteries; why men don’t whistle any more.
Honour the things that won’t come back again.

Remember politics, but don’t digest them whole.
(That shimmering emblem trailed across the sky
will ravel out your mind, destroy your soul
and fill the world with lies while millions die.)

Be sure of nothing: youth’s no time to be wise.
The Truth will let you in on its own plan.
Travel: possess the girl: enjoy each prize.
Don’t think too much about writing. Live while you can.