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Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice

December 3, 2019

Brace yourself.

Kurt Vonnegut was the favorite author of five high students. They contacted him as part of an assignment. And he replied!

Again, brace yourself. —

November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives.

Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on.

Make a face in your mashed potatoes.

Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can.

But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing.

Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles.

You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

—- I invite you, yes you, to follow his advice.

To use his example, write your own six line poem, about anything, but rhymed today. And then follow the rest of his instructions to them as well.

If writing a poem seems scary, that might well be the exact and most helpful place to start today.

Whichever of the 11 options he offers in his letter, pick one right now.

And then get busy.

See you back here tomorrow!



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  1. Janet Hargis permalink

    I know he said not to share it, but here is mine
    I am blessed as much as I can be
    Everywhere I look as far as I can see.
    The twinkling stars, the glowing moon
    Or just hearing somebody whistle a tune.
    Friends to be with that really care
    Willing to listen to anything I share.
    And God who loves me in spite of my sin.
    His arms are always open inviting me in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this, Janet (And just to the right of where I’m sitting is framed poem that starts, “Hi, my name is Joe” for which I again say Thank You)


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