Forget: Beautiful thoughts simply expressed

Beautiful thoughts aren’t always pretty and neither are beautiful words.

At the poetry workshop this summer at Wuhan I’d show two short poems by Alice Notley that were simple to understand. Here is one of them.

After Tsang Chih

I was brought up in a small town in the Mojave Desert
The boys wouldn’t touch me who was dying to be touched
because I was too quote
Smart. Which the truck drivers didn’t think as they
looked and waved
On their way through town, on the way to my world.

After students read Alice’s poem, I ask them to write a short poem of their own with a beautiful thought simply expressed. Here is a poem by Aileen that I liked.


sparking past
waking and lost
sunflowers bloomed and withered
just like you crashed in and faded
leaving me alone for good
in the freezing desert

The other poem by Alice I use is called


My little boy’s sick tonight
Oh get well while you’re asleep
Honey, and we’ll go out
Together at noon
Everything as always

When I’m working with a bunch of kids who don’t speak English as a first language I want to make it as easy as possible for them to write. Chinese students are particularly reluctant to try poetry because they’ve been taught to respect it and they’ve come to understand that it is something you just don’t do, it is a studied craft.

So a little poem by Alice can go a long way.

let me be a fool

on a dark raining afternoon
i sit alone in my room feeling tired
something inner is always striking hard
darling, you’ve taken up all my mind
i can’t find a spare place to rest my soul
oh, let me be a fool


A full moon night

Two leaves are falling in love
The curious wind comes to ask
Then they both burst into a laugh



A full moon in the starry sky
Is what a biscuit on a jade plate is like
One is sweet in your hand
One is sweet only in mind



I just broke out of prison tonight.
In front of me a dark beautiful open sea.
My life is now like a little boat.
In front of me just waves, waves, waves!
And freedom as well.



When the wind starts
she slows down her pace,
the green grass and fresh mud tiptoe around.
Suddenly she begins to race,
for the wind also carries father’s calling from another field.



I’m standing on the ground
silent and calm
With a hammer
a stone and a strong will.


A gust of wind

I am like a gust of wind.
When you realize that I come,
I may have already gone



Life is a big book
on whose edges
we write down comments.



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