Some people call me a writer. Others feel it’s a bit more accurate to label me a columnist. When I tell them I’m also playing around with a few novels, they’re usually more impressed. “Oh!” one lady exclaimed and arched her eyebrow. “So you’re an author!”
Others call me things that aren’t fit for a family newspaper.
But writer, columnist or author, there’s one literary art form I can never lay claim to. I’m not a poet. Not by any stretch. (You should realize that my annual Christmas poem is simply a bunch of foolishness.)
I suspect the last contact most of you had with poetry was either “The Night Before Christmas” or the high school English class where you read, or the teacher read aloud, the rhyming verse of Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat.” I can assure you, relatively speaking, my poetic experience also doesn’t go much beyond those classics.
I have, however, read and appreciated some work by a few famous, 20th century, English poets; for example, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost and Dorothy Parker. These poets – and many, many more – have a command of the English language I find absolutely mind boggling. Their vocabulary alone is often far beyond anything an ordinary person can vaguely approach. Couple this with an astounding ability to select precisely the correct word in meaning and rhythm and the ability to capture a certain emotion and imagery so powerfully it’s stamped indelibly in the deepest recesses of our minds.
“And somewhere men are laughing and
Somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville –
Mighty Casey has struck out.”
Beat poet Allen Ginsberg wrote a lot of trash, but I’ve always been quite fond of “Howl.”
“I saw the best minds of my generation
destroyed by madness;
Hollow-eyed and high, they sat up smoking in
the supernatural darkness
of cold-water flats,
surrounded by orange crates of theology,
floating across the tops of cities,
It’s my personal opinion that Ginsberg and his contemporaries weren’t nearly as skilled as some earlier 20th-century poets, like T. S. Eliot, one of my personal favorites.
“Let us go then, you and I,
when the evening is spread out against the sky,
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”
But, of course! I do it every morning and afternoon. Just ask the people in various downtown restaurants and clubs.
Professor Arnold Ludwig, M.D., conducted a study of 1,000 artists 50 or 60 years ago. From his collection of writers, actors, musicians, etc., he concluded that 90 percent of the poets had a serious mental disorder of some type, easily the most “crazy” bunch in the study. (Theater people came in a distant second with merely 70 percent.) I don’t find this surprising. Every seriously-driven poet I’ve ever known has always been a bit “different.”
The best poet I know, personally, is a local fellow, Ron Jorgensen. He and a collection of his colleagues are meeting at The Sequel Used Books and Espresso this Friday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m., to read their stuff and kick around some thoughts. So, if you’re one of those types who has scribbled a couple of verses in your weaker moments, you might want to drop by and say hello.
Who knows, you might hear something poetic.