"Tonight I want to say something wonderful ..."

Edward Hirsch _____

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A Workshop Exercise

from The Poet's Companion: A Guide To The Pleasures Of Writing Poetry.

Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux. W.W. Norton & Company. 1997.

Write a poem of praise for an unlikely group of people, things,
ideas-- whatever or whoever you think has gotten short shrift or a bad
rap.  Do as Hirsch does and about halfway through the poem insert a
colon and then leap off and dare say something overtly beautiful
or poetic, bizarre or funny.  Then return to the poem and tell us what
this group has to teach us about ourselves.  Also notice how Hirsch
uses the letter "w" throughout his poem and how, like a thread, it
helps to pull us through the poem.  Choose a letter and try weaving it
into the language, but don't be overly alliterative-- be subtle.

For the Sleepwalkers Tonight I want to say something wonderful for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith in their legs, so much faith in the invisible arrow cared into the carpet, the worn path that leads to the stairs instead of the window, the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror. I love the way that the sleepwalkers are willing to step out of their bodies into the night, to raise their arms and welcome the darkness, palming the blank spaces, touching everything. Always they return home safely, like blind men who know it is morning by feeling shadows. And always they wake up as themselves again. That's why I want to say something astonishing like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies. Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs flying through the trees at night, soaking up the darkest beams of moonlight, the music of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches. And now our hearts are thick black fists flying back to the glove of our chests We have to learn to trust our hearts like that. We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep- walkers who rise out of their calm beds and walk through the skin of another life. We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised. -Edward Hirsch