Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Collapsing at the Finish Line

Well, folks, here I am on the other side of the poetry challenge. In case you forgot, April was National Poetry Month. I took a challenge from the blog Poetic Asides with Robert Lee Brewer to write thirty poems in the thirty days of April.

I did it.

And I've learned a few things that make me look back at my previous post on this subject and cringe a little. First, I must say that I have a tremendous new respect for poets as a breed, generally. I still maintain that many of them are pretentious, lazy, and take themselves much too seriously. I can say the same of many fiction writers, though, including myself at times.

What overwhelmed me was what a struggle it could be to stay on task with these daily prompts, writing poems even when it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. So, today I tip my hat to poets; especially those that take the medium seriously enough to work at it their whole lives. I also realized that very few of them are ever recognized for their good, and sometimes great work. The market for poets is extremely limited. The establishment is cliquish and snooty in the extreme. Most of the people who pursue poetry seem to do it purely for the love of the craft of writing. I can't help but stand back and admire that.

I also found it surprising how quickly I tired of writing poems. I thought it was something I enjoyed more than that. As I predicted, there were only a few poems worth reading again. I've gone over them one by one and included two of the real gems below. Feel free to read them if you're interested, but you won't hurt my feelings if you ignore them. I worked hard on them, but I mainly wrote them for myself.

It was surprising what diverse topics my poems covered; what situations or snap-shots of life both real and fictional came to my mind as I tried to write something that fit the prompt each day.

I think I can honestly say I came away from this as a better poet, but only marginally. I think I'm a much better writer in the sense that I have more respect for writing as an art, due mostly to the fresh splash of cold water in the face that comes with realizing how much I DON'T know about writing and writing well.

I hope you enjoy these two poems. Whether or not you do, can you do better? Go ahead and post some of your own stuff on the comments section, if you like.

So We Decided to Play Baseball

Dear Claire,
I walked with you
Along the beach


Dear Claire,
I talked with you
Along the lines

Of foreign countries
Without A/C
And bands that sang
In English

You couldn't go;
You said. "America's home."
Remember? You drew lines
In the sand

To run along, Dear Claire.
"Don't chase me," you said.
You sat on first, looking down,
And shed no tears.

I found a strand
Or two of your wild
Chestnut hair. I wept alone
And threw it in a dumpster

Across the pacific.


I sleep tonight in quiet forgetting. I dream of a
napkin with a spent, bled, metallic packet of sticky
sick ketchup.

Icewater tendons strech over lifetime
fussing in the spingtime of
actual labor. I've forgotten what
it was like to let my pupils wander
over the contours of a wall
in Astoria.

I'll dream tonight of crisp, grey paper
sliding over the distressed wooden table that might have been used
for picknicks
And is, to me, like the crisp
snap of slacks over legs that have
only just forgotten the sensation of well-warmed cotton sheets.

After the stopwatch clicks I'll begin
Making love to a keyboard, humming
Tunes nobody ever
Heard in a McDonalds restaurant.


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