Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

April is national poetry month, so I will tell you a story that starts out long ago, perhaps 140 million years in the past, and maybe more. It is about a great gray dinosaur, and it starts sadly, with that dinosaur dying, sinking into the black mud in which he had been wallowing and being covered by shreds of leaf, bark and root all the dark debris that had been his life.

Many ages passed, millions of years, and the muck about the dinosaur’s body hardened and fossilized. Pressures built, and the great, gray beast took on the black of the soil enwrapping it, and the dark remains became compressed. Gradually, ever so slowly, the creature turned into coal. More eons elapsed and more weight pressed down upon the coal, until, deep in the earth, beneath layers and layers of history, the dinosaur became a diamond.

That is all we have left of the leviathan, and yet the story has ended happily. For in that diamond’s glittering facets are the compacted memories of all the time that has passed between that long-ago dinosaur and us, who today marvel at the diamond’s brilliant whiteness and who listen to this story.

Poems are life transmuted into diamonds, compact and indestructible. Nowadays, poetry may seem an artificial refinement of natural speech. But in the literature of every country, poetry comes before prose. It is the oldest language we have the most primitive, the most elemental and the most natural expression of ourselves as human beings. Poet John Frederick Nims has said that “poetry is the way it is because we are the way we are.”

In “I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed,” Emily Dickinson expresses her intoxication with poetry:               

I taste a liquor never brewed

From Tankards scooped in Pearl

Not all the vats upon the Rhine

Yield such an Alcohol!

 

Inebriate of Air am I                                                                                                                         

And Debauchee of Dew —

Reeling thro endless summer days

From inns of Molten Blue.

While you may never have gotten drunk on poetry, chances are that you have sipped it from time to time. And if the magic and music of the poems have done their work upon you, you have come to see that poetry is a form of expression more concise and concentrated than prose, that the language of poetry exerts a greater pressure per square syllable and a greater intensity per word than any other form of communication.

I invite you to try your hand, mind and heart at writing poetry yourself. Even if you have never created a poem before, you may have sensed that a poem is lurking somewhere inside you, that among the many happenings in your life are some that can best be told in the special language and form of poetry.

A poem “begins in delight and ends in wisdom,” Robert Frost tells us in his delightful and wise essay “The Figure a Poem Makes.” Writing poetry can help you to become more aware of experiences and thoughts that might otherwise seem jumbled and unrelated. Making your own poems can also help you to appreciate poetry more authentically and to see that all human beings are, in their own ways, poets.

One misconception about poetry is that it is devoted exclusively to lofty themes like immortality and unrequited love or to a small group of poetic subjects like clouds and daffodils. In fact, poetry takes all life as its province. A poem can talk about anything — the strange and the common, the beautiful and the ugly, the ideal and the mundane, as long as the poet and the reader will care about it. The place to begin is with yourself. If your poems are to be sincere, they should be fashioned from the raw material of your experience, whether that material be cars or computers, surfing or sewing, family or friends, city or country.

The American poet and critic William Meredith said, “I expect that hang-gliding must be like poetry. Once you get used to it, you can’t imagine not wanting the scare of it. But it’s more serious than hang-gliding. Poetry is the safest known mode of human existence. You only risk staying alive.” Take the risk. If you come to the adventure of writing poetry with an open mind and heart, willing to hear, willing to see and willing to feel, you will find yourself gliding through an exhilarating journey that begins in delight and ends in wisdom.