Guest Post: The Poet

Do not imagine. Accept the world as it is. Accept the traditions you were born into. You cannot change them. Accept your place in society. As a woman, you must breed and care for your children, nothing more. As a man, you must work and fight, and if necessary die in battle. Both of you must accept the power of your leaders – the priests, the politicians and the scientists – and obey them without question. Fast when you are told to fast, kneel when you are told to kneel, light candles according to the traditions, sing but only songs that praise your leaders. Your dreams are illusions. Ignore your inner voice, it is the voice of the devil tempting you from the true path. If you follow it, it will lead you to hell.


When your children sing for joy in the morning sunshine, tell them to stop. When they paint pictures of palaces with golden roofs and forests teeming with strange animals, tell them it is not allowed. And when they ask why, tell them it is forbidden to ask. Tell them that the only truth is to follow the traditions and obey the law.


And if you can do all that, then maybe there will be a paradise for you when you die. Or you will be born again as a master rather than a slave.


But there are some who cannot follow the true path. They are called poets. They are also called mad or heretic or evil. A fire burns within them that they cannot control.


Once a year, one day a year they are allowed out and put on show. “Dance!” we tell them. “Recite!” We listen to their gibberish and strange wailings, we watch their contorted movements, and we laugh at their pathetic performances.


Why do the masters allow this? Why even one day a year is this permitted? Well, if we do not let them out from time to time, the world of fantasy will bubble beneath the surface and infect the whole population.


So, if your child turns out to be a poet, your disappointment will be understandable. They will be rejected by many. Their life will be full of strange imaginings. Their dreams will lead them to explore worlds of exquisite beauty and terrifying danger.  But know that they are doing a vital job for our society. They go mad that the rest of us may stay sane.


Brian Lee


Brian Lee is a poet and a sound composer who lives in London, UK and works as a teacher and a coach. He counts among his influences, the lyrics of Captain Beefheart, and the traditional poetry of indigenous peoples. His poetry books and albums of sound compositions are available at where you will also find more of his writings on this strange business of being a poet.

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