I LIKE YOUR POETRY, BUT I HATE YOUR POEMS
Calendars crumble, I'm knee deep in numbers...
Believe it or not--and you'd better believe it--at one time I thought I could write poetry. This delusion lasted all through college and even some couple years beyond, long enough to fill an entire three-ring binder of truly awful stuff, a lot of it written as letters to one particular girl who I had to constantly feed correspondence to. Thankfully, these were rarely straight love poems, any type of poem would do, and so I used all kinds of ideas and techniques to fill my quota. She actually did the same, though because mine were typed on a word processor I had copies of all of mine; she handwrote hers, and at one point she asked for them back so she could make copies of them. I don't think I have to tell you that they were never returned--though surprisingly, her taking them was not a preamble to getting rid of me, and eventually it was me who ended it with her.
Anyway, recently I've been looking through this notebook in order to crib some notes from myself in order to figure out how to write some bad poems for a young man in To See the Lights. There is a bonus to saving everything, you can glimpse into the diseased mind of your youth and stare in wonderment at what the fuck was wrong with you.
I wouldn't even want to begin to count how many pieces are in this notebook, but despite the heft, it's not just a mishmash of poems tossed in willy nilly or arranged by chronological order. On the contrary, I tracked this behemoth, and arranged the poems in a specific order. That means certain thematic elements all get grouped together.
Like the five poems here. They are terrible, which is why I didn't take the time to retype them. Instead I have scanned them, typos and all, and uploaded them. If you really want to read some of them, you will have to follow the Flickr links and look at the different sizes. I refuse to make it easy for you to laugh at me.
Yet, I do find these interesting for a variety of reasons. One, because I think you can see the kernels of things that have become part of my vocabulary. I was writing Cut My Hair at the same time as many of these, so my identity as a writer was already firming up. You'll also see some fanciful musings on where my authorial future could have gone were life more romantic.
There is a lot of amusing tough-guy patter in this, I was already a student of film noir. I was writing about drinking, despite at this point only maybe getting drunk, on average, once a year since I was 15. 1994 and the corrupting influence of the comic book industry and yet more girls were to start me on my boozehound ways. Yet, I write of drunkenness and even cigarettes despite never smoking anything ever even to this day.
My two obvious influences here are Bukowski (you college students think you're all so original, but you're all the same!) and e.e. cummings, with the latter being, of course, the reason for some of the arrangements but also for the use of phonetic language. The poem where I drink with those two, as well as with Walt Whitman, reminds me that I read a lot of Whitman, though I don't think I ever finished Leaves of Grass. I also was a big fan of Wallace Stevens and Charles Baudelaire, but I see nothing of the exactness of what was one of my all-time faves, Emily Dickinson.
Despite whatever else is going on here, I really, really like that last stanza.
But oh! Once!
Once I resembled the Sistine Chapel.
God himself reached down
and cleaned my fingernails.
Don't be surprised if I recycle that.
I was almost washed up by 34. Have You Seen the Horizon Lately? was published when I was 35, so maybe I was a year off or so.
This next one was two pages, two scans:
Another two-pager. I am guessing now that Mog is Mowgli, also mentioned in the previous poem, and that Tonio was Tonio Kroger, the title character from a Thomas Mann story.
The "straight on to morning" reference is a nod to Peter Pan, though now I could see an argument made for it as a statement against the homoeroticism of the trio of guys steering clear of women. "Have you ever" etc. is good ol' Quentin from The Sound and the Fury defending his sister's dirty underpants.
Current Soundtrack: Morrissey, Years of Refusal
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All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich