Everything I need to know I learned from poetry

From William Carlos Williams, I learned how to find what I already had.

From Rumi, I learned how to keep searching for it anyway.

From Dickinson, I learned that certainty is death-in-life.

From Whitman, I learned that Creation doesn’t require a God.

From Neruda, I learned that one can be entirely wrong and still be right.

From Francis Ponge, I learned that radical empathy and clinical analysis make good bedfellows.

From Lucille Clifton, I learned that four or five well-chosen words can punch harder than an entire blood-stained epic.

From Ryōkan, I learned that poets must never be too old for children’s games.

From Miguel Hernandez, I learned that onion tears are as good as real ones.

From the Bible, I learned that thoughts are better when they repeat once in a higher key.

From Ai, I learned that even the worst, most evil men and women can still be beautiful.

From Issa, I learned that a poet’s first duty is compassion.

From John Clare, I learned that siding with nature can get you locked away.

From Robinson Jeffers, I learned that weather is the best muse.

From Vicente Aleixandre, I learned that eternity devours us moment by moment.

From Mary Oliver, I learned why a question mark is shaped like an open mouth.

From Charles Simic, I learned how to listen to stones.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. I love your observation about Ai. Yes.


    1. Hey, thanks. I was thinking I gave Clare short shrift, since that was a lesson more from his life than his work, but I was going with the “first thought = best thought” principle in compiling the list.


  2. I really want this as a broadside, as a poster, as a slide presentation, as a video, as a series of images and words and sounds and music and voices in which I can immerse myself. Please. :)


    1. Thanks for the suggestion — a good challenge, which I may well take on. Unless someone else would like to give it a shot…


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