Treasure Island

Mike Finley

(July 4,1950 / Flint, Michigan)

Be a Better Poet

1. Stop talking and listen. Listen to yourself listening. Then listen to that.

2. Pile all your hats in the back yard and burn them. Especially any with feathers.

3. Remove your name from everything you do. Anonymity purifies. Fame corrodes.

4. Drive out your own sound by inviting in others.

5. Stop breaking sentences into lines. Instead, breathe. The breaks find themselves.

6. Stop talking with other poets. One god per universe is the legal limit.

7. Stop reading poems. Read hands, read faces, read hearts.

8. Unless it feels like a gift, don't give it.

9. Leave poems in unexpected places. In umbrella stands, in robins' nests, on piles of buffalo manure.

10. Stop being a poet at all. Throw away the sash. Because it isn't about your being. It's about being, period.

11. Stop writing them down. Leave them unfolded on the doorsteps of the fearful - the only copies in the world.

(2006, for the good folks at

Submitted: Sunday, April 02, 2006
Edited: Tuesday, April 25, 2006

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  • Joe Breunig (10/21/2011 8:10:00 AM)

    An intriguing list of what not to do; I'll use what I can and discard the rest; for example, number 3 is not realistic - for people will steal and plagarize the work of others; real poets do not need to seek fame - their work will speak to the masses; besides, you're in violation your own point, seeing that's posted under your name.

    -Joe Breunig
    author/poet, Reaching Towards His Unbounded Glory (Report) Reply

  • Alison Cassidy (5/20/2006 9:02:00 PM)

    This is fan-bloody-tastic stuff. Except the advice about not reading other poets. Let's face it, all the great ones share the same inspiration in the end! love, Alison (Report) Reply

  • Sandra Erickson (4/2/2006 2:26:00 PM)

    Mike: Well said!

    I compose best in the car as I am driving. For a long time I used to try to write these bits and pieces down-arriving late, or driving erratically ((smiles)) . Now I just say them out loud a few times -until I get it exactly right-and then let them go....I figure it's good to give a few back to the know?

    I really enjoyed this poem.


    Sandra (Report) Reply

  • Esther Leclerc (4/2/2006 9:51:00 AM)

    Excellent advice, Mike. I see my problem now: I've only done the second bit! Thanks for the laughs and sound ideas. : ] (Report) Reply

  • RAY LUCERO (4/2/2006 9:12:00 AM)

    Number 12 should read:
    Stop telling other poets what to do!

    Of course, I'm kidding...nice write.
    Gotta go now Mike, as I have poems that need to be posted on steaming manure piles.: 0)

    Ray (Report) Reply

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