How To Be a Poet

I found this poem at the Poetry Foundation site. 

How To Be A Poet
by Wendell Berry

(to remind myself)


Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill–more of each
than you have–inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity.  Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.


Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.


Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.


7 thoughts on “How To Be a Poet

  1. I once sat quietly on a bench at Wordworth’s home in his little Lakes District home.  He had been a landscape architect as well. The bench was under a tree and just  next to a hillside of daffodills that he had planted.  I looked out on the tree lined lake panorama and thought, “How could you NOT write poetry here”. Oh for more silence to hear the poetry of our hearts. I loved this C.  Thanks. m

  2. I hesitate to comment because still whispering in my ear is “make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came” — anything I may write in response will surely disturb the silence, the rich stillness of thought evoked in this poem — and yet, here I am trying to offer some meaningful words to express my appreciation for this poem — maybe I should simply say ‘thank you’ …

  3. This is wonderful.  It helps put me in the mood of gratefulness for my extra time “away” right now, and anything that does that is a blessing! 

  4. in brackets you wrote to remind myself… are we going to enjoy a poem of yours in the near future? (promise not to say that we like it.. judgement preferred not to be doubted)..

  5. That’s great stuff.  I especially like “there are no unsacred places.”Thanks in large part to you, I just finished Berry’s “A Place on Earth (revision)” and am reading “Remembering”.  Those were the two fiction books of his at our public library.  Wow! What a treat.  I will be looking for more of this series, for sure.  Blessings,Sandy

  6. Sonja, the to remind myself is part of Wendell Berry’s inscription.  I would like to write poetry some day, but I believe it is much more difficult than it appears on the surface.Sandy, I haven’t read “Remembering” yet.  I keep Berry’s books on my shelf as a special treat to be spaced out.  I have two still unread.  Berry is a gem.

Comments are cinnamon on my oatmeal!

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