I have in front of me a display ad from our local entertainment weekly newspaper.
“Poet for hire” it reads. “To perform at your social gatherings, workshop facilitator, home schooling, poetry coach, set free your Robert Frost to perform like Mick Jagger.”
That last one grabbed me. I’m not sure I want my Robert Frost performed like Mick Jagger. Or my Emily Dickinson rapped like Eminem. Or Yeats done by the finalists from American Idol.
But I am impressed that the young man hopes to make some kind of living at being a poet. (I know it’s a man because his name is at the bottom of the ad, and I know he’s young because no one with any experience of life’s monetary obligations would have illusions about the financial potential of poetry.) Apparently he is a “Grand Slam Champion.”
If “grand slam” brings to mind golf or baseball or breakfast at Denny’s, you are sorely out of touch.
Poetry has become fashionable these days, which, considering all the other possibilities, is a good thing. College-age kids are participating in poetry slams, contests where people recite their work before an audience. I have never been to one of these; I’ve seen one on television. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but I have always regarded poetry as a private affair, something that doesn’t want to be shouted or judged in a contest. A good poem is a personal statement that needs time to sink in, time for one to dawdle over phrases and words, and for one to sit back and reflect. A poem is meant to be read and reread while sitting in a cushy armchair, in the perfect quiet late at night, perhaps a glass of Scotch at your side. At least that’s how I see it.
I have not written a poem in 15 years. I never wrote very many of them, but when I lived near the beach on the Oregon coast for a few years, I was inspired to do so. Maybe it was the waves, ever calming, that led me to a more reflective bent. Their eternal rhythm is ripe ground for thinking in rhythmic ways.
The other day, I found my file of poems from that era and I will post some of them here. And who knows, I may try my hand at a new one. Or two.
It’s not like I am a Grand Slam Champion or anything, and I have no clue how good or bad my poems are, really. Some attempt to say something deep, some are meant to paint a picture in words of a scene that captured my imagination, some are humorous throwaways. Back then, my mind wandered everywhere from mystical rains to a dead hippopotamous. It was before CLL. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Rereading the poems, my outlook on life and death is much the same today as it was then.
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