Explore samples of student writing on the Poetic Thinking platform. Students start new dialogues and engage with course material, expanding conversations that begin in class.

Finding Poetry (& Possums)

Posted by Ravi Smith '22 as part of the course “Myth and Modernity” taught in Spring 2020.

During quarantine I haven’t had the same motivation to sit down and write as when I was taking a poetry workshop last spring. However, within all the quiet, it’s easier to find poetry than before.

This past winter I took a poetry workshop where we read “The Art of Finding” by the poet Linda Gregg. In her short essay, Gregg explains that “poetry at its best is found rather than written.”

Certainly one can make good poems without feeling much or discovering anything new. You can produce fine poems without believing anything, but it corrodes the spirit and eventually rots the seed-corn of the heart. Writing becomes manufacturing instead of giving birth.

Linda Gregg, “The Art of Finding”

I tend to agree that writing poetry is about finding what already exists in the world rather than a kind of self-centered, personal innovation.

This one I found after coming home from a walk. I snapped a photo of a fat possum lying comatose under our apple tree:

Plump possum paralyzed post-pilfering pears.

Another morning I jotted the lines of what would later become this verse:

Three stunning lines of poetry

In a dream. Awake

I could not recall them

Sometimes I find poetry inside something that is already written down, I just have to extract the poem and label it as such. When I was using Google Translate on Thai prose, this blunt poem was inside the translation:

In front of other people

This is the feeling of who we are.

It depends on our face a lot. 

And last week, I read a really intriguing fiction piece. Upon closer examination, I realized I had misread a part of it. Though, I still liked my original misinterpretation:

He said your body is never yours to begin with. He died without apologizing. He died, and he found the strength to attend his own funeral. 


To learn more about the philosophy of the project, see Poetic Thinking Today by Amir Eshel. Available from the Stanford University Press and in German from Suhrkamp Verlag.

POETIC THINKING would not have been realized without the collaboration of the many Stanford students who have participated over the years. Special thanks are due to Brian Johnsrud, Daniel Bush, Cody Chun, John Coyle, Ravi Smith, Courtney Hodrick, and Amber Moyles as well as the many others who have used the Poetic Thinking platform and contributed to its development.

Additional thanks and recognition go to the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA) and the Taube Center for Jewish Studies. The support of the Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford has also been essential.