Joanne Rocky Delaplaine


My Plumly

Love  death  and a good long think 

he said are the occasions for poetry

If you can film it you can write it 

Don’t worry about being a poet 

just try to capture the moment

This is a terrible poem 

Tone is everything   tone is not

what you intend   it’s what

you discover in the writing   

I do favor a certain formalism 

form is your father  your mother

Pay attention to the music 

Silence is one of your sources

or should be   Never let the will

do the work of the imagination  

If you want to grow as a poet

put yourself in your poem 

Your obsessions are your prompts  

You have centuries to turn to  

learn from the poets before you 

not as competition  but as support 

He knew which poets were drunks  

When he recited poetry he’d quiet

to a whisper  we’d lean in   straining

You never stop revising your poems

until you die   Bad writing

can kill you  it should kill you  

You should die of it   You’re lucky

if you have five readers

Where is the poem taking place

you give up such power when you

don’t tell us   Poems are elegies 

if not  why write them   Passion

he insisted is what really matters 

praised Frost’s Directive   A poet

should never have the last word  

when you end  close the door quietly       





Bear Den

Outside the window of your study two rows of leafing trees

on opposite sides of the street recede to a vanishing point.


This was the view from your hospice bed in your house

on Bear Den Road as you lay dying. Now your writing desk


is back in its place. What are the poet’s tools? Your typewriter,

for the clatter it made, and the feel of the keys on your fingertips.


I loved seeing your wall of books with a rolling ladder to reach them.

I loved inspecting your volumes by Keats, poems, letters, or about him.


As night comes on, the April light softens. Crepuscular,

the cyclical dying of the day, your favorite time.


The dead don’t want to take us with them, so often they

need our permission to let go. It’s we, the living,


who long to keep their company, to walk them home

so we’ll know where to find them when it’s our time.


In class when you conveyed how many men it took

to bear Emily Dickinson’s casket, your hands held


the precise heft of her.  On my desk is a painting

of a bird perched on a tree-filled planet


with its tiny suitcase packed.  Marble-blue Earth hangs

in the sky like a full moon.  I was in Peebles, Ohio


when I heard you’d died.  I walked outside, 

it was dark enough to see the stars, I didn’t want shoes.


“Now you are a redwing black-bird,” I said out loud

to you who taught me listening.



These poems appeared in Delaplaine’s 2019 collection
The Local World. Reprinted by permission of the author.