What prompts us to write a poem? As my thoughts meandered, something flashed back. Years ago discussing my latest volume, the reviewer remarked that many poems appeared to be written as gifts to other people.

Many? Curious, I pulled my books off the shelf and listed every poem directed or dedicated to someone other than my immediate family. From six different collections, not counting duplicate recipients, more than thirty!

The best part was not just that these good people offered inspiration, but their response. Almost all were not poets, let alone readers of poetry, yet they were touched that a poem would be created unique to themselves. More than once, years later families even shared the poem(s) at their funeral or memorial service.

My biggest thrill was elderly Grandmother Wright1. A hardy survivor of the Great Depression, she now lived alone in the little cottage she had helped build on a northern lake. Ecstatic that anyone would ever write about her life of plain hard work, she told everyone she knew, over and over, about “my own poem”.

She, and the others, had been seen. That affirmation was the real gift. 


1. “In Your Light”, Clarity Between Clouds (Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 1991), pp. 40-42.