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Updated: Apr 4, 2023

Tonight’s the night when lovers of kelpies, selkies, kilts and crowdie, tartans and toories, come together in praise of Robert Burns. Some of the lovers are even Scots. Many are not—or are so removed from Scotland they had to look up the meanings of most of the words in the first sentence of this post. A few of them even know Robbie Burns was a poet.

I’m mad for poets. Poetry’s very nice, too. But it’s really poets that make me weak in the knees. I’m a prose writer. (Prose: written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure, per Oxford Languages.) I can write poetry—with a gun to my head. But poets …

Poets have my undivided attention, my undying admiration. For one thing, the odor of sanctity surrounds them. They do what they do with so little expectation of reward. They are the Mother Teresas of Language, anointing humanity with words like tintinnabulation and jabberwock and heart-heaviness. What we would do without those lush and lingering words, I can’t imagine. They enable us to endure, well, everything.

I watched a child grow into a poet. I did, truly, a miracle unfolding before my eyes like that green shoot rising from the seed you planted in a paper cup, not knowing if it would sprout. She was a gifted child, a student, an earnest girl with a transparent tenderness of spirit I feared the world would crush.

Not crushed. Dented, bruised, a laceration here, a fairly deep knife wound there. A bone-deep contusion, followed by internal bleeding. But from those wounds she rose, straight and strong, blooming words of surpassing sweetness. She became a poet.

Visit her. Count yourself lucky if she drops some of her words on you.

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