How A Poet Must

How a poet, impossible, must be
is—unenclosed wholly and yet

clamped shut—pores open
like portholes to the world

in welcome, yet unbreachable
as a safe, or carapace, case-

hardened against carious
words, spurious charms,

the germs of indigestible
trivia, by the gigabyte:

trite contagion. (Yet be curious
to the killing point.)

How must the poet flow?
Between these poles, impossibly,

and his goal, her goal—instantiate
in a phrase or stanza one moment

of flayed presence, in ways
no I-mind could counterfeit.


Steven Heighton’s poetry collection The Waking Comes Late has just been published by House of Anansi Press. His stories, poems, and reviews have appeared in the LRB, Brick, Poetry, Best American Poetry, Best Canadian Poetry, New England Review, TLR, and the New York Times Book Review.



Skip to content