In The Poetry Home Repair Manual in a chapter titled “Writing About Feelings,” Ted Kooser explains: “Sometimes when working with beginning poets I told them they are forbidden to write about their feelings. In other words, they cannot make overt statements of feeling. This throws them back on scene and mood and pacing and other devices through which they must convey their emotions.”
You want to tell me how the band makes you feel, how it fills you to the tippy-top with happiness. Instead, you describe the graduates in their gaze, the reveling strangers swept up in the parade of pride, the rollicking relief and promises of freedom that animate even the skinniest stray to join the celebration.
Kooser offers his own poem, “After Years,” as an example of the power of seeing from the other side. He explains the poem as a way to describe seeing a woman he once loved and showing: “It really shook me up to see her.”
Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer’s retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.
What does it look like from the other side?