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Poems About Writing

Table of Contents

  1. To a Blank Sheet of Paper by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  2. Recipe for a Good Letter by Anonymous
  3. A Literary Miss by Oliver Marble
  4. Letters by Amos Russel Wells
  5. The World's Way by Anonymous
  6. The Letters I Have Not Sent by Anonymous
  7. The Pen by Anonymous
  8. The Sealing Wax by Hannah Flagg Gould
  9. Stenography by Amos Russel Wells
  10. A Literary Crisis by Anonymous
  11. A Pointed Discussion by Anonymous
  12. The Letter by Emily Dickinson
  13. The way I read a letter 's this by Emily Dickinson
  14. I Used to Write by Margaret E. Sangster
  15. At the Mermaid Cafeteria by Christopher Morley
  16. Thoughts While Packing a Trunk by Christopher Morley
  17. Old-Fashioned Letters by Edgar A. Guest
  18. At a Window Sill by Christopher Morley
  19. The Snare by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse
  20. Seed Thoughts by Kate Louise Wheeler
  21. Letters Are Small Angels by Annette Wynne
  22. His Letter by Ruby Archer
  23. Your Letter by Ruby Archer
  24. Merchantmen by Ruby Archer

  1. To a Blank Sheet of Paper

    by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    Wan-visaged thing! thy virgin leaf
    To me looks more than deadly pale,
    Unknowing what may stain thee yet,—
    A poem or a tale.

    Who can thy unborn meaning scan?
    Can Seer or Sibyl read thee now?
    No,— seek to trace the fate of man
    Writ on his infant brow.

    Love may light on thy snowy cheek,
    And shake his Eden-breathing plumes;
    Then shalt thou tell how Lelia smiles,
    Or Angelina blooms.

    Satire may lift his bearded lance,
    Forestalling Time's slow-moving scythe,
    And, scattered on thy little field,
    Disjointed bards may writhe.

    Perchance a vision of the night,
    Some grizzled spectre, gaunt and thin,
    Or sheeted corpse, may stalk along,
    Or skeleton may grin!

    If it should be in pensive hour
    Some sorrow-moving theme I try,
    Ah, maiden, how thy tears will fall,
    For all I doom to die!

    But if in merry mood I touch
    Thy leaves, then shall the sight of thee
    Sow smiles as thick on rosy lips
    As ripples on the sea.

    The Weekly press shall gladly stoop
    To bind thee up among its sheaves;
    The Daily steal thy shining ore,
    To gild its leaden leaves.

    Thou hast no tongue, yet thou canst speak,
    Till distant shores shall hear the sound;
    Thou hast no life, yet thou canst breathe
    Fresh life on all around.

    Thou art the arena of the wise,
    The noiseless battle-ground of fame;
    The sky where halos may be wreathed
    Around the humblest name.

    Take, then, this treasure to thy trust,
    To win some idle reader's smile,
    Then fade and moulder in the dust,
    Or swell some bonfire's pile.

  2. Recipe for a Good Letter

    by Amos Russel Wells

    To write a good letter, take a handful of grit,
    A plenty of time and a little of wit;
    Take patience to "set" it, and stir it all up
    With the ladle of energy. Then fill a cup
    With kind thoughts and helpful thoughts, merry thoughts too.
    With bright words, and wise words, and words strong and true.
    Mix all these together, and then add for spice
    Some good news, some funny news, all news that's nice.
    Then seal with a love kiss and stamp it with care;
    Direct to your friend's heart, and presto! 'tis there.

  3. A Literary Miss

    by Oliver Marble

    There once was a lit'rary miss;
    And all that she needed for bliss
    Was some ink and a pen,
    Reams of paper, and then
    Thirty days to describe half a kiss.

  4. Letters

    by Amos Russel Wells

    What is a letter? A bridge in the night
    From my soul to your soul; and over it go
    Envoys of darkness or envoys of light.
    Ladings of blessing or hurdens of woe.

    What is a letter? A signal, a flash
    Darting directly from your soul to mine,
    Meaningless, meaningful, prudent or rash,
    Always a boding or jubilant sign.

    What is a letter? A flip of the pen
    Paper and mucilage? That and no more?
    Nay; 'tis the fatefulest action of men,
    Reaching eternity's ultimate shore!

    Burn the old letters? Alas, if you could!
    Burn up indifference, malice, or hate?
    Once they might burn, or he altered to good,—
    Ere they were written! but now is too late.

    Burn the old letters? the missives of cheer,
    Glowing with merriment, pulsing with love?
    Nay! though the paper disintegrates here,
    They are preserved in the mansions above!

  5. The World's Way

    by Anonymous

    He wrote his soul into a book.
    The world refused to turn and look.
    He made his faith into a rhyme,
    And still the world could spare no time.
    But on the day when, dumb and dazed,
    Despair-condemned, and blind and crazed,
    By means most weird his life he took,
    Behold, the world brought out his book!

  6. The Letters I Have Not Sent

    by Amos Russel Wells

    I have written them, keen, and sarcastic, and long,
    With righteously wrathful intent,
    Not a stroke undeserved nor a censure too strong;
    And some, alas! some of them went!

    I have written them, challenging, eager to fight,
    All hot with a merited ire;
    And some of them chanced to be kept overnight,
    And mailed, the next day—in the fire!

    Ah, blessed the letters that happily go
    On errands of kindliness bent;
    But much of my peace and my fortune I owe
    To the letters I never have sent.

  7. The Pen

    by Anonymous

    Within my pen what words are pent,
    What mystery, what merriment!

    It hath a door, my pen, somewhere,
    And what a throng is waiting there!

    Bright thoughts are standing all about,
    And quivering to be let out.

    O could I find the golden key,
    Open the door and set them free!

  8. The Sealing Wax

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    Bright guardian o' the thoughts o' men!
    Sin I maun fasten up, an' sen'
    To either een, the things my pen
    Has been about,
    I wish ye, just for surety's sake,
    To blaze an' rin, then stap an' take
    My seal, to bind ye na to break,
    An' let them out.

    For, be my whimsies great or sma',
    I wad na let them loose, to fa'
    Where a' the idle wins that blaw,
    To whirl the stoure,
    May toss them round from mou to mou,
    Wi' different nature, form an' hue,
    To come frae ilk they're hurried through,
    An' a' ground o'er.

    This warld's a curious ane enough;
    An', weel supplied wi' kindling-stuff,
    It winna quench, while it can puff
    The reekin flax.
    An' what could pass through smoke an' flame,
    An' like yoursel, come out the same,
    In beauty, virtue, hue an' name,
    My cannie wax?

    I wadna ca' the warld unfair,
    Or wrang it in a single hair;
    But, wha kens maist o't, kens the mair
    How oft it slips,
    For want o' rectitude or thought,
    Sae far upon the side o' faut,
    That truth is seldom pure or straught
    Between its lips.

    I winna judge the warld's intent;
    But then, its een are sae asklent,
    The fairest things leuk foul an' bent,
    The foulest, fair.
    I canna, therefore, now foresee
    What sort o' things my thoughts wad be,
    If robbed o' their identity
    By gettin' air.

    Gin folk wad kindly let alane
    A neighbor's wark, to tent their ain,
    Ye wad na hae to thus sustain
    A martyr's fate,
    By bein' burnt to prove how fast
    Ye'll haud your virtue to the last,
    Like precious gowd, until ye're past
    Your distant gate.

    But, sin I hope the world will men',
    We winna let it ever ken
    What I hae whispered as a frien',
    Tho' strictly true.

    Gang now, an' guard these secrets weel!
    May ane, who breaks ye, ca' ye "leal,"
    For what, when broken, ye reveal!
    Adieu! Adieu!

  9. Stenography

    by Amos Russel Wells

    Our fathers walked around the hill,
    And we pursue their journey still,
    Ah, toilfully we do it!
    Stenography, direct and fleet,
    Has used its hrain to save its feet,
    And made a tunnel through it.

    With inky lines complexly wrought
    We spin a spider-web for thought,
    And lazily invite it;
    Stenography, of fiercer mold,
    Leaps after thought, with spirit bold,
    As far as it can sight it.

    In clumsy coaches dull and slow
    The longhand writers plodding go,—
    Or break down, woe betide it!
    Stenography, a railroad train,
    Speeds on the track as Driver Brain
    Desires to urge and guide it.

    For thought is like a maiden gay
    Whom Shorthand takes in dashing way.
    And gladly she receives him;
    But Longhand is the drawling kind,
    Who tries to speak his sluggish mind,
    And while he tries, she—leaves him.

  10. A Literary Crisis

    by Anonymous

    There is nothing so hollow as pens,
    There is nothing so gloomy as ink,
    When a man is obliged to think of something,
    And doesn't know what to think.

    There is nothing so blank as paper,
    There is nothing so void as a brain,
    When a man has an hour to think up a thought
    And has thought for an hour in vain.

    I know how a ghost must feel
    As he tries with his fingers of air
    To convey a mouthful of good beefsteak
    To the mouth that isn't there.

  11. A Pointed Discussion

    by Anonymous

    The Punctuation Points one day,
    In the type case where they lay,
    Each an earnest pleading pressed
    To be ruler of the rest.

    Said the Period, "I'm the end
    Toward which every line is penned."

    Cried the Comma, "Nay, but me
    Printers use most frequently."

    Bragged the Hyphen, "Lo! I stand
    With a word in either hand."

    Screamed the Exclamation, "Fie!
    All the writers' force am I."

    Urged the Question Mark in glee,
    "Don't men always ask for me?"

    Cried the Colon, "Printers call
    Me to introduce you all."

    Semicolon: "Mine the art
    To hold differing thoughts apart."

    But the Dash triumphantly
    Drove the others to the wall.
    "I'm the only Point," said he,
    "That the Authors use at all!"

  12. The Letter

    by Emily Dickinson

    "Going to him! Happy letter! Tell him —
    Tell him the page I didn't write;
    Tell him I only said the syntax,
    And left the verb and the pronoun out.
    Tell him just how the fingers hurried,
    Then how they waded, slow, slow, slow;
    And then you wished you had eyes in your pages,
    So you could see what moved them so.

    "Tell him it wasn't a practised writer,
    You guessed, from the way the sentence toiled;
    You could hear the bodice tug, behind you,
    As if it held but the might of a child;
    You almost pitied it, you, it worked so.
    Tell him — No, you may quibble there,
    For it would split his heart to know it,
    And then you and I were silenter.

    "Tell him night finished before we finished,
    And the old clock kept neighing 'day!'
    And you got sleepy and begged to be ended —
    What could it hinder so, to say?
    Tell him just how she sealed you, cautious,
    But if he ask where you are hid
    Until to-morrow, — happy letter!
    Gesture, coquette, and shake your head!"

  13. The way I read a letter 's this

    by Emily Dickinson

    The way I read a letter 's this:
    'T is first I lock the door,
    And push it with my fingers next,
    For transport it be sure.

    And then I go the furthest off
    To counteract a knock;
    Then draw my little letter forth
    And softly pick its lock.

    Then, glancing narrow at the wall,
    And narrow at the floor,
    For firm conviction of a mouse
    Not exorcised before,

    Peruse how infinite I am
    To — no one that you know!
    And sigh for lack of heaven, — but not
    The heaven the creeds bestow.

  14. I Used to Write

    by Margaret E. Sangster

    I used to write so many songs of love—
    I wrote them carefully, I did not know
    That love was more than moonlight from above,
    And pretty words set in an even row,
    I held my pencil calmly in my hand,
    And sang of arms and lips and tender eyes;
    I wrote of love—who did not understand—
    And hoped that folk would think me very wise!

    I used to write so many songs... To-day
    My hands are folded, and I cannot sing,
    I sit, instead, and watch the sunlight stray
    Across my desk. And I am wondering
    If God, who lights a million stars each night,
    Laughed at the groping words I tried to write!

  15. At the Mermaid Cafeteria

    by Christopher Morley

    Truth is enough for prose:
    Calmly it goes
    To tell just what it knows.

    For verse, skill will suffice—
    Delicate, nice
    Casting of verbal dice.

    Poetry, men attain
    By subtler pain
    More flagrant in the brain—

    An honesty unfeigned,
    A heart unchained,
    A madness well restrained.

  16. Thoughts While Packing a Trunk

    by Christopher Morley

    The sonnet is a trunk, and you must pack
    With care, to ship frail baggage far away;
    The octet is the trunk; sestet, the tray;
    Tight, but not overloaded, is the knack.
    First, at the bottom, heavy thoughts you stack,
    And in the chinks your adjectives you lay—
    Your phrases, folded neatly as you may,
    Stowing a syllable in every crack.

    Then, in the tray, your daintier stuff is hid:
    The tender quatrain where your moral sings—
    Be careful, though, lest as you close the lid
    You crush and crumple all these fragile things.
    Your couplet snaps the hasps and turns the key—
    Ship to The Editor, marked C. O. D.

  17. Old-Fashioned Letters

    by Edgar A. Guest

    Old-fashioned letters! How good they were!
    And nobody writes them now;
    Never at all comes in the scrawl
    On the written pages which told us all
    The news of town and the folks we knew,
    And what they had done or were going to do.
    It seems we've forgotten how
    To spend an hour with our pen in hand
    To write in the language we understand.

    Old-fashioned letters we used to get
    And ponder each fond line o'er;
    The glad words rolled like running gold,
    As smoothly their tales of joy they told,
    And our hearts beat fast with a keen delight
    As we read the news they were pleased to write
    And gathered the love they bore.
    But few of the letters that come to-day
    Are penned to us in the old-time way.

    Old-fashioned letters that told us all
    The tales of the far away;
    Where they'd been and the folks they'd seen;
    And better than any fine magazine
    Was the writing too, for it bore the style
    Of a simple heart and a sunny smile,
    And was pure as the breath of May.
    Some of them oft were damp with tears,
    But those were the letters that lived for years.

    Old-fashioned letters! How good they were!
    And, oh, how we watched the mails;
    But nobody writes of the quaint delights
    Of the sunny days and the merry nights
    Or tells us the things that we yearn to know—
    That art passed out with the long ago,
    And lost are the simple tales;
    Yet we all would happier be, I think,
    If we'd spend more time with our pen and ink.

  18. At a Window Sill

    by Christopher Morley

    To write a sonnet needs a quiet mind....
    I paused and pondered, tried again. To write....
    Raising the sash, I breathed the winter night:
    Papers and small hot room were left behind.
    Against the gusty purple, ribbed and spined
    With golden slots and vertebræ of light
    Men's cages loomed. Down sliding from a height
    An elevator winked as it declined.

    Coward! There is no quiet in the brain—
    If pity burns it not, then beauty will:
    Tinder it is for every blowing spark.
    Uncertain whether this is bliss or pain
    The unresting mind will gaze across the sill
    From high apartment windows, in the dark.

  19. The Snare

    by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse

    Many birds will fly away
    From the cages that I build,
    Yet if one shall sing and stay,
    I have all the joy I willed.

    Many songs are in the air,
    Flitting like evasive birds,
    Ah, if I but one may snare
    In the cage of words.

  20. Seed Thoughts

    by Kate Louise Wheeler

    The celebrated Author pens
    His thorough thoughts from depths of mind,
    And they are not in proper place
    Until the depths of our's they find.

    The wisest reader may perceive,
    In writings that shall ever live,
    A reflex of his own wise thoughts
    That to the world he did not give;

    But to the mind of him who learns,
    They are as seeds of knowledge brought
    That soon take root and rarefy
    Into a whole great field of thought.

  21. Letters Are Small Angels

    by Annette Wynne

    Letters are small angels flying in between
    All the houses of the town, red, and gray, and green;
    And the postman helps them, shows them just the way,
    As he walks along the street smiling all the day.
    Take the letters gladly—with their white, white wings,
    Blessèd little angels, telling happy things!

  22. His Letter

    by Ruby Archer

    Down in the grass I found her,
    Above a letter bent;
    The autumn leaves around her
    Their soft mosaic blent.

    She read the letter slowly,
    As one that sips a joy.
    I felt intruder wholly,
    And certain to annoy.

    She gave me loving greeting,
    And drew me to her side,
    While up her cheek went fleeting
    A flow of rosy tide.

    "I am so happy, Dearie,"
    I heard her softly say,
    "So happy, happy, Dearie,—
    His letter came to-day!"

    And all she told me of it
    I have in mind so well;
    She whispered me above it—
    "—"—I promised not to tell!

  23. Your Letter

    by Ruby Archer

    Let not the day go dully by
    With heavy tread and downward eye,
    With crownless head all sadly bent,—
    When you the dolour might prevent.

    Your letter gives the day a crown,
    Blithe feet, elate as thistle-down,
    Great heavenward eyes that rapture know,
    And heart an oratorio.

  24. Merchantmen

    by Ruby Archer

    Come in my ships, my letters,—
    Kind the sky above,—
    On your full sails faring
    From the harbor—love.

    Ye bring me wine for cargo;—
    Bear it safe, I pray,—
    Words,—a common vintage,
    Finer with delay.

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