On the Road at Dawn

To the East the sun rocks, and huffs softly

Spilling a pink plume across the prairie’s edge.

To the West, the stony mountains, ponderous and dull witted,

Merely flex a foot. Then lift a buttermilk lid


And forget to yawn.

But if they had remembered

They’d have sucked the last, faint

Stars from the sky

I used to live in Denver Colorado but work on New York hours. So I would usually be a lonely car on the road before dawn. In the winter I’d fly through the frigid air under a blue-black sky studded with stars. But as the year waxed, I’d enjoy the lovely atmosphere of pre dawn on the great plains that fronted the Rockies. I’m not a poet but enjoyed penning the poor effort above.

Why should a novelist read (or even write!) poetry? One reason is that Collum McCann, a renowned writer and teacher of the craft at Hunter College said so in his wonderful book, ‘Letters to a Young Writer‘. He said poets should read novels and that essayists… You get the point.

I find poetry important since it forces the writer to do two things. First, and perhaps most importantly, it demands economy of language. Unless you’re writing the Iliad (my favorite work of literature), you need, as a writer, to learn economy. Second, it is great practice for creating tropes, figures of speech: similes, synecdoches, metaphor. Things like that.

And it is fun to practice the high art of poets, which is to put together a phrase that when parsed makes no literal sense, but conveys immediately an image understood by the reader. Sylvia Plath, my favorite modern poet wrote: ‘(the baby’s) cries rose like bright balloons’.


So try some poetry. I’ll be asking you to submit some in my FB posts. It’s fun.