Ars Poetica by RITA DOVE
Thirty miles to the only decent restaurant
was nothing, a blink
in the long dull stare of Wyoming.
Halfway there the unknown but terribly
important essayist yelled Stop!
I wanna be in this; and walked
fifteen yards onto the land
before sky bore down and he came running,
crying Jesus--there’s nothing out there!
I once met an Australian novelist
who told me he never learned to cook
because it robbed creative energy.
What he wanted most was
to be mute; he stacked up pages;
he entered each day with an ax.
What I want is this poem to be small,
a ghost town
on the larger map of wills.
Then you can pencil me in as a hawk:
a traveling x-marks-the-spot.
From “Grace Notes: Poems” (W. W. Norton: $9.95, paper). Rita Dove won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for “Thomas and Beulah”; she teaches writing at the University of Virginia. 1989 Rita Dove. Reprinted with permission.