I’m sharing this oldie to the Poets United Pantry #4 this morning, despite my strong aversion to telling other people how to write or what to write about, or what not to write or how to avoid writing.

Originally published as follows:
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (Online) October 2012
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (Print) March 2013
Sadly, this fine publication is now defunct and unavailable online.

You can, however, –if you dare– hear me read it here:
Tutor (Audio) May 2013


The trick, he said, is to
sit by the lake, write
about water and sky
without using words like
expanse or dome; without
comparing one to the other;
without mentioning robin’s eggs
or azure; without resorting to
a recollection of other summers
spent by some other expanse
of azure, under some other
dome of robin’s egg blue.
The trick, he said, is to see
across the lake to the other
shore; to make the other shore
anything at all but distant; keep
the clouds from becoming cotton.





11 thoughts on “Tutor

  1. I really did laugh out loud with that last line. It felt like a game of poetry taboo and reminded me when Billy Collins said while putting together an anthology that he wouldn’t read poems with the word “cicada” in them.

  2. Ha… this is wonderful… a bit like the course of creative writing where we had all those rules including one of refrain from using adjectives (and even more adverbs)… we tried and we tried to replace them with verbs and only afterwards the teacher said, that’s fine, but you can also do the opposite… rules are there to be broken.

    That said, there are a lot of cliche’s out there… I used ruby of wine on a course and understood that was a no-no as well.

  3. Having someone to guide, not direct, your footsteps is important. Otherwise we stumble around in the dark in blindness, reaching out and never quite grasping hold of the right words. This is a good practice that I should be working on. Thanks, Ron

  4. Oh such good advice. I love any kernels of truth about the art of writing. This one is a gem – seeing that other shore……….

  5. Adding this to my store of advice during this month of writing furiously. This is a challenge–to see what’s before you and not all the other times and places it has been seen, by all the others who’ve seen it.

  6. Oh, this is a delight. How clever of you to take this (I think excellent) advice and fashion it into a poem itself. And your reading is terrific! You get just the right tone of voice to convey both his earnestness and wisdom, as well as your own appreciative but slightly humorous look back.

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