Left to Write

It isn’t difficult to find
__the works the masters left behind,
and others too have written verse,
__some for the better, some for worse.

So can there still be ground to break,
__and are there chances yet to take;
secrets that haven’t been revealed,
__emotions that remain concealed?

I wonder in the dead of night
__are there still poems left to write?


Fore and Aft

Yonder the realm where wisdom rules,
Wander amidst her priceless jewels,
Squander not these exquisite tools,
Ponder the poverty of fools!


Joe Tessitore is a retired New York City resident and poet.

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24 Responses

  1. Charlie Southerland

    Dear Joe–

    Technically, the first poem is well constructed, but ill conceived.
    Your questions have been asked and answered many times in scads of poems.
    Why squander this opportunity when you have much deeper things residing in your heart and mind? Do those things not clamor to be seen?

    Your second poem is also well constructed. It is light verse. The punch line is a bit weak. Perhaps a limerick instead?

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Joe and Dear Charlie –

      First off Joe, you have made great strides since first posting on this site. Secondly, Charlie is right in what he says.

      We are all constrained by our desire and ability to plumb the depths. There is only one cure for this – keep on writing!

      • Joe Tessitore

        Dear Sally and Charlie,

        Thanks for your suggestions.
        I wrote the second one as an answer to the first – it contains a first-word rhyme as well as a lastword rhyme which, for me, was something I’ve never done before.
        Admittedly I was much more focused on its structure than its content.

  2. Steve Shaffer

    Hi Joe —

    I guess some won’t agree, but my first thought was “who hasn’t thought this?” and thus, I liked your poem, since it was well said.

    I studied philosophy in undergrad and grad school (though in both cases I switched disciplines), and I had the same thought about that subject; my thought was that this was why academic philosophy has become more and more about less and less.

    One thing that differentiates poetry from philosophy, in my opinion, is that there is always the possibility of saying something in a novel way. There is always the hope that you can hit that exact sweet spot so your words will wiggle their way into someone’s consciousness.

    And, no one ever charged into battle yelling “Give me Kantian metaphysics, or give me death!” 🙂

    I enjoyed these poems.

    P.S. I hope I don’t get “flamed” or whatever people call it nowadays…

    • Steve Shaffer

      I think I should have said “Kantian epistemology” instead of “Kantian metaphysics.”

      I always notice these things after I hit the submit button.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        True. Kant didn’t believe in the possibility of metaphysics, as he argued in his “Prolegomena.”

  3. Amy Foreman

    Joe, I enjoyed both of these poems. And, my two cents: Just because a question has been asked and answered scads of times over the centuries doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be asked and answered again. I thought the pairing: “Left to Write” and “Fore and Aft” was quite witty. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Joe Tessitore

    Thank you all very much.

    I know that I can only go where the inspiration takes me and I have been struggling with what I believe is a “sameness” to my poetry.

  5. E. V.

    Hi, Joe! Both poems are enjoyable. Perhaps a timeless question pondered by many a poet is precisely what gives “Left To Write” its appeal. I agree with Steve in that it doesn’t matter what others have said before; if you’re inspired to say something in your own unique way, do it! I’m surprised you gave less attention to the content of “Fore and Aft”; it sounds “deep”. Was I reading in to it?

    • Charlie Southerland

      Dear Joe–

      If you are struggling with a “sameness” to your poetry, you are in good company. I continually fight with this issue and it keeps me awake at night sometimes. I know other writers who struggle with this as well. Stay aware. I truly congratulate you for your efforts.

    • Joe Tessitore

      Thanks E.V.
      It was purely an effort to do something different. I wrote two columns of rhymed words, placed them side by side, and went from there.
      I was grateful for the fact that it had a touch of the poetic.

  6. Mark Stone


    1. “Left to Write” is my favorite poem of any I have seen on this website. The reason is that it is the first one I’ve seen that does not begin every line with a capital letter. For me, this practice adds no value and is mildly annoying.

    2. I agree that it’s fine to write new poems about old themes. I would add that, for people new to poetry, it may be hard to know which fields have been plowed innumerable times and which have not.

    3. My other comments about this poem are that I would (A) delete the “the” in L4 to improve the meter, (B) change the semi-colon at the end of L6 to a comma; (C) change “haven’t been” to “are not” in L7 to improve the meter; (D) add a colon at the end of L9, and (E) change “are” to “Are” in L10.

    4. Regarding “Fore and Aft,” I think that in a very short poem such as this, it is critical for the meter to be consistent and easily discernable. I would go with 10-syllable lines, namely, three dactyls followed by a single, stressed syllable. For example:

    Yonder the realm where the true wisdom rules.
    Wander amidst her extravagant jewels.

    Also, yours is the third poem I’ve seen on this website that uses “amidst.” Each time I wonder if “amid” would be better, but I have not reached a conclusion.

    5. In closing, I like both poems.

    • Joe Tessitore

      As far as capitalization and punctuation are concerned, two things guide me:

      1. In his “Black and White” dances, George Balanchine demonstrated that choreography can stand alone, without the benefit of elaborate sets and beautiful costumes;

      2. In a manual for artists, the author recommended that we put aside our pencils and erasers and sketch only with pen. We will then pay far more attention to our lines.

      I feel the same way about my poetry. If I can get it across with just my words, I believe it will be far more effective.

  7. David Paul Behrens

    There is at least one good reason why there will always be poems left to write, and that reason is infinity. There are endless amounts of poems to write and I like yours a lot.

    • Michael R. Burch

      One might also suggest that some of the critics have broken surprisingly little new ground themselves. Contemporary formalism is not always a fount of shocking originality. I think it’s fine to write on any question or theme, as long as one writes well. After all, Shakespeare was not above recycling previously used material!

  8. James Sale

    Hi Joe – really like your poems, and stop worrying about originality, which has come to have a very constricted meaning. Indeed, if one could write something totally ‘original’, chances are it would be solipsistic, narcissistic and tedious. Pope put it this way: ‘what oft was thought, but ne’re so well expressed’. Now that’s a challenge: we take a commonplace idea but we express it as only we – I, my individual soul – can; somehow, then, the commonplace thought is re-charged, re-vitalised. Your poems have some of that re-vitalisation. I particularly like that concluding couplet: I wonder in the dead of night / are there still poems left to write? Lovely. And as you wonder further, you are going to find, as David Behrens rightly observes, the answer is not only an intellectual ‘yes’, but a full emotional charge – and the Muse will speak again. Well done.

    • Joe Tessitore

      Very beautiful comments for which I am truly grateful!

      Thank you all very much!

  9. Trevor Siggers

    Sure there are poems left to write as you’ve so wittily demonstrated.
    Best wishes
    Trevor in Leek, England, waiting for inspiration while knowing it only comes when pen touches pen and fingers hammer the keyboard.

  10. David Hollywood

    Seldom do we create or read of totally original ideas and are therefore left with reconstituting those which we do know, and occasionally we are reassured through confirmations of what we might have previously thought or felt. I enjoyed your poems and thank you for them and the effort.

    • James Sale

      Ha! Thanks Steven. Your points too were good; we are all contributing. But so often it is the case that we love what the poet/poem is saying not because it is so original that we have never thought that before, but it is something we have thought before, but never so pithily, or so well, that – as I say – the truth is re-vitalised in our thinking. The two lines I cite from this poem may, on first examination, seem trite – of course, the rational mind says, there will be more poems. But emotionally, at the level of the Muse, everyone who has ever struggled with any serious issue knows that there comes a point where we despair of solving it – in the case of poetry, of saying it, of getting it out. Indeed, we have in writing a technical phrase for this: it’s called ‘writer’s block’ and as we know, for some this can be a permanent state. So Joe’s poem, especially those last two lines, really speak to our condition.

  11. Kim Cherub


    I thought “Left to Write” was a well-written poem and the title was very clever!

    I also liked your “Lullaby,” and took it as a good omen since my first poem here was a lullaby!

    I look forward to reading more of your work. I think you have talent and shouldn’t worry about what others have written, as long as you continue to write well.


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