Smart Poem Gets it Right

Sometimes poems say everything and get it exactly right. After a long discussion yesterday with someone who believed that the only things schools should teach is “what you need to do in life,” I realized how awful that would be.

Most of what I do today didn’t exist when I was in school. I certainly did not study how to handle communication problems in the workplace while in college. I learned that from making communication mistakes in the workplace.

When I was in college, there were no blogs, no Twitter and no websites. There were no computers, cell phones, or faxes. (Yes, that was a long time ago.)

What I still use today is the problem solving I learned. How to think, not what to think. And, of course, that art is the benchmark of a culture. And I’m still using all that knowledge, years later. This poem knows so much I can still learn.

You and Art

Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
walking alone.
And you live on a world where stumbling
always leads home.

Year after year fits over your face—
when there was youth, your talent
was youth;
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;

and you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.

—William Stafford, from You Must Revise Your Life

–Quinn McDonald reads poetry to learn about life.