Wednesday, April 1, 2009


April is National Poetry Month.

To celebrate, I'm hosting a virtual "My Favorite Poem". Modeled after Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project, all my April posts will include someone's favorite poem and a few words about why that poem is important to them personally.

Today it is my pleasure to share with you MY favorite poem. Or at least one of them.

A Secret Life

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don't say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you've just made love
and feel you'd rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you're brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you'd most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it's like a small fire
in a clearing, it's what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It's why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who'll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

- Stephen Dunn

The first time I read this poem, it left me breathless. It said all the things I felt but hadn't yet found the words for. At the time, writing was my secret life. I squirreled my poems and stories away in stacks and drawers and not a soul read them. I knew exactly what Dunn was talking about when he said it was like a small fire in a clearing. I loved the poem because it gave me permission to continue my secret life, to nurture it, to celebrate all the things about me that are just mine.

Wishing all of you happy healthy secret lives. And if you'd like to be a part of this project, please contact me as soon as possible.


  1. Amazing! I am so with you on the image of the small fire in the clearing. What a treasure. Thank you for sharing this one. I'm eager to see what other poems I learn about from you this month.

  2. Hi Irene,

    Thanks for posting this poem. I like it with its originality. I guess we are doing the same idea of posting our choice of favorite poems during the month of Poetry.

    I would like to post one of your poems on my blog during the month of April. I could choose one or you can propose one for me to pick.

    Khaled KEM

  3. Thanks for the reply Irene.

    I have a favorite one (Black Shawl Remembers Crazy Horse)but it's definitely your choice to send me your favorite Aubade.

    I shall be glad to send you one of my poems as well or you can pick one that you like.



  4. Irene,

    I just want to say thanks again for the lovely time with the Birmingham poets tonight. I made it home by midnight, safe and sound. I would love to contribute a favorite poem to your blog this month. Let me know how I should proceed.


  5. I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog and read this poem! It's so true-- we usually think of secretive as such a negative thing, but there are so many thoughts we all have each day that no one else will ever know. It makes me feel like its OK to embrace my imagination :)


Your thoughts?