Inventing the Poet

“In order to write poetry, you must first invent the poet who will write it.” — Antonio Machado


In this year-long lab in Innovative Inventions, we shall experiment

With a variety of elements, chemical compositions, media (including bricks

And Legos, crayons, pen and ink, and the dreams of flightless waterfowl),

Books, of course, lots of books, starting with a dictionary, thesaurus, all

The Peterson’s Guides—for birds, trees, flowers, gems, and librarians of

All stripes. You never know when you will run into the need to identify

Friend or foe, ibex or oboe, atlas or armillary sphere. What kind of poet


Are you going to make? The kind with frilly cuffs or the kind with battered

Shoes and a flannel shirt? The kind with a black beret and a bicycle, or

The kind with cufflinks and a VW Bug? Will the poet write in Chinese

Characters all the way down the window shade, or type some beatnik

Manifesto on the back of small cards to slip into unsuspecting readers’

Pockets: sub rosa poetry. What kind of shamanic powers will you endow

Your poet with? Incense and Latin chant is good, as is a walk in the woods,


Or a picket line, a fife and drum parade; avoid public readings as they cause

An unfortunate increase in hatband size. The chemicals come last, cheap wine,

Margaritas, Gatorade, tea and much, much coffee, particularly if yours

Is a morning poet, trained to greet the day as soon as the birds declare it

Has begun. Add foam and cinnamon or a rim of salt. Add the tears of broken

Love, the sweat of labors performed to pay the rent, the blood of ancestors.

Stir carefully. Such ingredients are flamboyant and may explode.

How We Make the Road


So a while back I came across a few lines from the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, used them for an epigraph for a chapter in my theology thesis and then, as one does, forgot all about him. Then a few days ago, I was digging around on my desk and found another line I had written down and then presumably used as a bookmark until it worked itself loose and found me again, which I wrote about a few days ago. That made me look into him further and I found this bit of a poem.


Wanderer, your footsteps are

the road and nothing more;

wanderer, there is no road,

the road is made by walking.

Walking makes the road,

and turning to look behind

you see the path that you

will never tread again.

Wanderer, there is no road,

only foam trails on the sea.


Given that every writer of application essays EVER tends to use The Journey as their Metaphor of Choice (this is a professional opinion), I rather like the idea that there is no road, only the walking. And this guy Machado reminds me less of other Spanish poets like Lorca than of the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard for some reason.

And this is a bit odd, because Bachelard says, “What a dynamic, handsome object is a path! How precise the familiar hill paths remain for our muscular consciousness! “Oh, my roads and their cadence.” I don’t know what it means, but I like it.

Bachelard, Gaston. probably The Poetics of Space.

Machado, Antonio. “Proverbios y cantares.” Campos de Castilla, 1912.