Jeff Fearnside





The art of poetry
cannot be explained
in a poem

any more than a breath
can be explained
by breathing

or, that is to say,
exactly like that.



To paraphrase the Zen priests,
a poem is but a finger
pointing to the moon.

Yet a poem is also the moon,

luminous, remote, fully untouched
by rejection slips or acceptances,
bad reviews or good,
criticisms or analyses
of any kind—
all those pointing fingers.



Though it doesn’t glow
with its own light, as many, including poets—
especially poets—think.
A moon reflects back
only what found its way there
in the first place.



Literature professors like priests
try to make a science of an art
and create a language
to describe a language
created to describe
a world not just beyond language
but beyond creation.

That is why, for all of their hypotheses,
their subjects fail to deliver
replicable results, which,
if nothing else, is good
for tenure.



A poem is neither created nor destroyed,
only changes form.



I’m speaking about the great themes,
perhaps even language,
all that babble from one
metaphorical tower.
Certainly the human spirit
and its invariable yearning.



Can we speak so definitely
about the ineffable and infinite?
Or suppose an infinity for our supposing?

Of course we can.
We do it all the time.
Read a poem
and decide for yourself.
Better yet, write one.
Breathe to understand
your breathing, or,
more simply, to live.



Who is the “I” in this poem?
Who is the “you”?
Better to ask who we are in life
and if there’s any difference.
You and I.
Poetry and life.



Poetry is prophecy.
Poetry is wordplay.
Poetry is politics.
Poetry is pure truth and excrement.
Poetry is an unapologetic paradox

sometimes. The rest of the time
it just seems like one
or is clearly deceitful
or perfectly lucid
or apologetic.



Where do ideas come from?
Where does the sky?
So many delicious ways to say
I don’t know



A poet, a priest, and a politician
are walking through the woods
when a tree falls down
and kills the poet.
Is it poetry?



Kill the poet! Kill the poet!
If you see the Buddha,
kill him, the Buddhists say.
Do you think truth
wears a saffron robe
and smiles serenely?
Neither does poetry
wear paper sandals nor tell you
one thing more
than you already knew.



Jeff Fearnside’s poetry has appeared in The Fourth River, Permafrost, Qarrtsiluni, Blue Earth Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and The Los Angeles Review, among others. He was the recipient of a 2015 Individual Artist Fellowship award from the Oregon Arts Commission. He lives with his wife and their two cats in Corvallis, where he teaches at Oregon State University. He can be reached at