How much do I have the courage of my convictions?
A while after this incident, I was mentoring a poet online, by email -- a poet who developed, and turned out to be very good. But at this point, everything she was writing was still labored, mannered, even tortured. She couldn't progress beyond sounding like someone who wanted to write Poetry.
Then in a depressed moment, writing me an email about her frustration and doubts, she tossed in a story about another time in her life when she was balancing self-confidence and self-doubt, between her first and second marriage, when she was testing out her sexuality and her ability to attract men. I started looking at the note, and there was a sureness to the language that I didn't see in her poetry, even a rhythmic sureness.
I started breaking it into lines, maybe dropping a word here and there, but otherwise not altering anything, and I was right. It worked. A found poem.
I sent it back to her...hey, take a look at my latest poem.
If I were a real Zen master of a teacher, I would have stuck to it...and it probably would have been a good lesson.
But...I ultimately gave her the poem.