Inspiration is Breath, Not Birth (a poem)

10 Jan

If the title sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote a blog entry on this topic a few years ago: Inspiration is Breath, Not Birth (How to Stay Inspired Forever)

I also featured the concept in the final chapter of my book: Talking Splat: Communicating About Our Hidden Disabilities

What I haven’t shared here yet is the poem I wrote about it. It’s a sestina, which is my favorite form of poetry. It doesn’t have a rhyme scheme; it has a word scheme. You choose six words and each line ends with one of the words, and they appear in a certain sequence. Confused? Here’s a confusing diagram; you can click on it to get to a less-confusing Wikipedia page about it:


Anywho, anytime is a perfect time to repeat this message, so today I wanted to share this poem, as an exhale. It’s designed around the words:

inspiration | gift | birth | death | breath | life

Inspiration is Breath, not Birth

Whether we chase art, love, or a cure, we follow inspiration
Because inspiration is the mortar of poetry, the bow binding the gift.
It’s the splitting prism, the passage, a visceral gust of mystic birth.
Inspiration is strong tender arms holding us, dead
Raw, through the grandest moments of our minds and hearts, breathing
Heat against our necks and whispering the sweet everythings of life.

But as we find it, it flitters away. We begin that painting or affirm to live
More devoutly, drink more water, swear less, inspire
Others to take the stage, lose a few pounds, gulp deep breaths
Instead of taking to the rage. But that canvas dries undone as inspiration gives
Way, and we’re left in the writhing silence of our dreams’ death,
Pregnant with the genius we’re unable to bear.

For we failed to unearth: inspiration is breath, not birth.
Inspiration isn’t immortally born, coming once and continuing to live.
It must be breathed again and again like our two-bonded oxygen or it dies,
And so our opuses and hopes perish too. Inspiration
Is breath, not birth, and as we are living to be giving
Our greatest art and love, we must never stop breathing.

Know which divine winds of inspiration you most like to breathe
And breathe: constant, steady, deeply, dizzy. Our earthly birth
Commands us. Breathe in Bach so you can bake. Breathe Adele and give
Time and peace to Grandma. Breathe the tale of Charlie Chaplin’s life
To compose your graphic novel. Breathe the inspiration
Of puppies, Mount Rainier, the color blue, and make love until you die.

And know, too, we cannot hold our airs or we will die.
As waves curl and foam after they swell, we must breathe
Out what we take in; every waft of inspiration
Must leave our beings and upon others’ eyes and ears and souls be born.
Let live what stirred the pen in your hand, let it live
Outward to be breathed in by another also born to give.

Hum that sonata with your contagious light and give
A boundless spectrum of harmonies to artists dying
In the gasping black. Exhale in quoted verse and living
Cartoon epiphanies. Send the lost on your alpine course to breathe
In juniper, dirt, and creation. Map where every muse was born.
Be the agitation, the instigation, the competition, the motivation. Be inspiration.

For inspiration is breath, not birth, and if you care to see all your creation born,
To achieve your prodigal promises and an innovator’s ethereal stay from death,
Breathe inspiration. Breathe in. Breathe out. Never stop taking or giving. Never stop breathing.



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