Where Do Poems Come From? Prado and Whipple Respond!

Brazilian poet Adelia Prado, Winner of the 2014 Griffin Trust Lifetime Achievement Award

Canadian poet George Whipple

Human Rights

I know God lives in me
as in no other house.
I am his countryside,
His alchemical vessel,
and, to his joy,
His two eyes.
But this handwriting is mine.

Adelia Prado (1935 – ) trans. by Ellen Dore Watson from Ex-Voto, Tupelo Press, 2013

My Art

My art
  is not the least
     bit better
for being smiled upon
not in any way decreased
  by being blamed.

I am not ashamed  
  of what I write,
     nor boastful either
since I am not the author,
  only the blest receiver
    of words already written.

George Whipple (1927-2014) from Swim Class and Other Poems, The St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2008

First day of National Poetry Month celebrated on both side of the Canadian/U.S. border. And to honour this celebration of poetry I have chosen two small poems by two important poets. The little-known Canadian poet George Whipple (at least little known outside Canadian poetry circles) and the celebrated Brazilian poet Adelia Prado who was honoured by the Griffin Trust’s Lifetime Recognition Award in 2014.

I chose their poems to acknowledge the mystery inside poetry. To acknowledge what so many poets express: that a poem, as American poet Jane Hirschfield says, is not in service to us but we are in service to the poem. To put it another way as Canadian poet Susan Musgrave says: It seems to me my poems know more than I do and are wiser than I am. It’s what’s magic about writing.

Both Whipple and Prado express this idea in their poems. I am so struck by how Whipple gets his ego out of the way. Removes himself from praise or blame! What a great way to be!

While Whipple is not explicit where his poems come from Prado is. For her they come from God, the divine. Not surprising because she is a devout Roman Catholic. But I do so appreciate her lovely last line: But this handwriting is mine. How she owns her role in her poems!

And even though Whipple seems clear that his poems are in some sense already written I do not for a minute assume he didn’t have to work very hard to find those words!

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