despite it all

Denver Butson is a great poet.

Actually, Denver Butson is a great writer who happens to be a poet.

No, I’ve never met him.

Except through his words, which I return to again and again.

His poems, which come back to me at odd hours, unexpectedly. In the middle of the day. Or the dead of the night. Or when I am sitting,  trying to recharge my batteries. And staring out the window, at the birds who just happened to have come down to perch on….what is that thing they’re sitting on, anyway? A what?  An antenna?  They used to have those, didn’t they, before cable, before satellite, before broadband and webcasts…

Actually, they still do.

And Denver Butson is still writing.

But check this poem out.

despite it all

there were twelve birds
on the television antenna
on the roof below my window

I counted them

and then one lifted up
and then two
and then three flew away

there are nine birds

and then they too lift up
and fly away

and then one comes back
and then two

there are twelve
no thirteen birds
on the television antenna
on the roof below my window

I count them
and then one lifts up

When asked what advice he would give to writers – to struggling writers, to beginning writers, but not just them, to any and all writers, Denver Butson said –

“Don’t listen to other people’s advice.  Find what works for you and stick to it.  Make it a rule or a set of rules if you have to, but always be willing to break the rules, even your own, when they don’t work for you anymore.”

Find what works for you.

Always be willing to break the rules.

Even your own.

And sometimes, while you’re doing it, it’s good to take time out, and look around you. At whatever it is that really fascinates you. Insects. Bees. Or even….birds.

The ones in those cages, over there, hanging in the trees…

Or the ones outside your home….

Or the ones in those trees, just across that field….

"Watching Birds", by Patricia Atwood

And then, just for fun, try counting them.

As they lift up.

And fly away.

And come back again.

To settle down, briefly. Or for a longer spell. Before lifting up again…

Do they remind you of something?


(…you too?….why am I not surprised….)

Give it up for Denver Butson.  He knows….