if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

From sifting through the madness for the Word, the line, the way by Charles Bukowski. Copyright © 2003 by the Estate of Charles Bukowski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

If you can keep your head when all about you
   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
   But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
   Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
   And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
   And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
   And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
   And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
   Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
   Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
   If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
   Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

This poem is in the public domain.

Whenever I make a new poem,
the old ones sound like gibberish.
How can they ever make sense in a book?

Let them say:
“He seems to have lived in the mountains.
He traveled now and then.
When he appeared in cities,
he was almost always drunk.

“Most of his poems are lost.
Many of those we have were found in
letters to his friends.

“He had a very large number of friends.”

From Ring of Bone: Collected Poems (New & Expanded Edition), edited by Donald Allen © 2012 by the Estate of Lew Welch.

Because there is too much to say
Because I have nothing to say
Because I don’t know what to say
Because everything has been said
Because it hurts too much to say
What can I say what can I say
Something is stuck in my throat
Something is stuck like an apple
Something is stuck like a knife
Something is stuffed like a foot
Something is stuffed like a body

Copyright © 2020 by Toi Derricotte. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 3, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

A woman is walking a word that’s ½ a poodle
near this cursive gate where you’re standing & reading
“A woman is walking a word that’s ½ a poodle,”
that’s an –ism, that’s an act, state, process,
doctrine, theory or cult, past my name,
past the TOBACCO shop, the FRUIT shoppe
with bananas like hands on an American flag
& serrated watermelon; she passes the Happy Face
& many other pedestrians; past the little church
with the black and white tiled rhyme
then the carefully mown slogans that are golf courses:
Just Do It, Milk, It Does a Body Good,
the open air market where oranges and pears
are stacked as semi-colons &
past the sentence in block letters that endlessly cir-
culates as the air conditioning for buildings B thru D.
A woman is walking a word that’s ½ a poodle.
A felt green gentleman at a pencil-d in café table, chair, ob-
serves that the same woman passes with the same dog
every 5 seconds or it’s 3 blue and white W’s in a row
made of gel and foam, then 3 lower case b’s.
She’s out buying a bayonet of bread.
Above, in the yellow sky, a phrase drifts.
At the third word of this poem,
right in front of my house the stanza,
the dog writes a single letter “s,” an anus fruit,
a pasty cookie, on the sidewalk: PLEASE CURB YOUR DOGs
I am just a scribble. Between the woman and the dog
there’s a gap of 3 typed spaces in which she controls him
with the leash of spelling,
mis-. Madeleine knows there’s a snake of consciousness
hibernating under the ground, a cemetery for shapes,
blobs, blots, objects without names,
and so the gap widens & it’s here that the dog flees,
landscape in the distant corner of the gap
and a dragon.

From Fall Foliage Called Bathers and Dancers (Backwaters, 2008). Copyright © 2008 Alexandria Peary. Used with permission of the author.