Sage Advice from Maj

While cleaning out some old books and figuring which ones to sell, which to pulp, which to give to friends, a couple yellow legal pages donning the handwriting of the poet professor, Maj Ragain, appeared among a mix of folded up dust jackets.

During the last couple years of college, I assisted the sage poet around class time and with a writing group for veterans. Occasionally, I would make copies of poems and his notes about poems, these lined pages are the originals that I somehow kept.

The first half is about a reading on campus with notes about the readers, favorites lines and his response to them, his sense of the environment.

The second part, which I’m sharing with you, is his advice to poets, which goes:

Be Brave. Read. Respond to Your Reading. There will always be poetry, in every culture. It weighs in against devaluation of language in public-speak, in advertising, in noise. It teaches us to pay attention, to learn how to be alone with ourselves. It is an unauthorized testament about one’s own truth, about speaking One to One.

Then he includes a quote from “Nicolas Malebranche, 15th century French philosopher” that reads:

Attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul.


Maj has always had it right. Soul poet. Warrior of the Soul.

Poetry requires one to be brave, to be alone, to be attentive to one’s self and the other’s, that other who is also oneself.

I hope I continue to be brave. To be alone, as much as it sucks to be alone sometimes (he says in the middle of the holiday season). To will a connection between the illimitable and the finite. To sound a sense into the void. To yield primal energy to imagination. To become un-becoming also.

Anyway, I’m gonna go write some poems now. I hope you do, too.

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