Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

0005 Letter To A Younger Poet - Poem by Michael Shepherd

Thanks for your letter. Though
you’ve caught me at a rather awkward time –
I’m going into surgery tomorrow – a rather
risky op; so I’ll try to put all the answers that I’ve got
into this one letter;
I hope you'll understand...

and that helps me to make my first point to you:
write as if you, too, may not live
beyond tomorrow – write as if
it’s the last thing that you’ll ever write –
give it everything you’ve got,
hold nothing back;

or better still – write as if
the world will end for everyone tomorrow:
write so that in their last hours, too, this
will make them feel, will make them know
we’ve faced life fully, faced it so complete
that death is relatively unimportant now…

write as if it were only yesterday
that, in an air crash, all your family –
parents, wife or husband, partner, children, and best friend,
had lost their lives; write as if,
were you not to write,
your heart would break forever, or you would go mad...

write as if you’re writing somewhere
where there’s no such thing around, as ink;
you’ll have to use your own blood in the pen,
so use it carefully; so red, so living,
look at it… so beautiful, so precious,
and so solemn – use it carefully, don’t spill a drop…

write as if you’re borrowing every word
from the very centre of the universe, where suns and gods are made;
and need thus to account for every word
with your whole life, no less; know that every word
must be given back, cleaner, stronger, brighter
with your own power, than when you borrowed it;

write as if every poet that ever lived
is leaning over your shoulder, so that you
can feel their breath upon your neck as they say
‘Tell them all that we would tell,
but cannot now; tell them all of this’…
this, now, is how you must deeply be and speak;

write as if you are the only being on earth
who can tell them this; as if tomorrow, if tomorrow comes,
you shall visit them every one, at home,
and look them in the eye; write as if
you love them more than they will ever know;
write as if you were offering to live their lives with them;

write as if you were a force of nature in yourself:
as if whatever earthquake, hurricane or flood might do,
whatever law or love may greatly do,
whatever gods or men can speak, in fullest force,
this you may do, because the sound of poetry is such;
yes, write ‘as if’ – but know you really write ‘because’…

write as if – no, write because –
you know that only poetry can tell
all, that must be told, and must be known;
and as all hearts melt in the heat of your own love,
be in no doubt – and see that all are in no doubt too –
that life was never, never more serious,
never more glorious, than it is right now;

write all this.

Comments about 0005 Letter To A Younger Poet by Michael Shepherd

  • john tiong chunghoo (12/11/2006 6:35:00 AM)

    yes, write as if the sun is going to lose its light. (Report) Reply

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  • (9/17/2006 10:46:00 PM)

    I have done this, and sometimes, it hurts.............. (Report) Reply

  • (9/13/2006 7:54:00 AM)

    Michael, this is a splendid poem with invaluable advice. I have printed it and stuck it on the wall in front of my computer - as a constant reminder of the awesome privilege of sharing the gift of words. You're right, 'life was never, never more serious, never more glorious, than it is right now.' love, Allie xxxxxxxx (Report) Reply

  • (9/26/2005 7:59:00 AM)

    After reading, I made love with poetry. Blood-warming. Beautiful.

    (Report) Reply

  • (9/22/2005 10:24:00 AM)

    wow, Michael. you've outdone yourself again. this is a magnificent poem. cheers!

    (Report) Reply

  • (9/22/2005 8:38:00 AM)

    Great advice, Michael, and a true champion poem, to be sure. Thanks for posting this one.

    (Report) Reply

  • (9/22/2005 8:33:00 AM)

    Write as if no one will ever read it bacause words are sacred regardless. Good write. (Report) Reply

  • (9/22/2005 8:08:00 AM)

    Yes. Poetry is urgent. Good poetry that is. It's a butterfly with a broken wing. You captured it all here. Good poem. (Report) Reply

  • (9/22/2005 7:24:00 AM)

    wow... this is absolutely exquisite, let me say that again, absolutely exquisite. write because... salut. (Report) Reply

  • (9/22/2005 4:58:00 AM)

    Wow, one of the most powerful things you've ever written. Very poignant, although it sure puts pressure on poets, young or old, to get it right. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, September 22, 2005

Poem Edited: Saturday, May 22, 2010

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