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Proof I Cannot Write Poetry

I’m going to show my underskirts here a bit. I’ve said a few times that I’m no good at writing poetry (though I have had a couple poems published in very nice journals—these were the exceptions that proved the rule). Now, as I continue to unpack the boxes stacked in my office, I have come across an old notepad wherein I used to scribble bad poems when bored with my editing job. Since my editing job was mostly very busy, the notepad is mostly filled with notes about the books I worked on and not many poems. Count this as a mercy. And to prove to you that my poetry is quite terrible, here is something dated 5 June 2004:

several small universes inhabit
your eyes, I see them when I peer
at the photograph of you, the one
where you’re leaning against the brick wall.

impossible, I call you, understanding
if I insisted on thinking of jam
as what you would call a pencil—if
we could not agree on even the words—we would be
unable to name our feelings and they would be lost.

I do not use love lightly.

small universes, I say, and the stars there
are winking out.

WTF? I really don’t know what was going on there. I’m not even sure whether I was writing about an actual photograph or something imagined. There’s a second page, but I’ll spare you; in any case, it’s not clear if the next page is part of the same poem or is something else again.

In the same notepad I have a series of notes titled “Blogging the 77th Annual Academy Awards.” It’s very surreal to read out of context.

Now here, in modest defense, is a poem I wrote while an undergrad, and because my poetry instructor really liked it, I feel less self-conscious about posting it here:

Welcome
to the Requiem.
Would you care to sit
On the left
Or the right?
This is the panegyric,
N’est-ce pas?
And then the reception
at the mausoleum.
You will be attending,
I assume?
Then I shall save you a seat;
You can eat
next to Rey and Dawn.
(They were in the fire
of 1863 and may
Bore you with their stories.)
Or perhaps you would rather
Dine with Cousin James, although
you may find his company
somewhat funereal.
(His fall from grace
upset him greatly.)
I suggest you take tea
at Davida’s table. (She
is not cheerful but
her scones make up for it.)
What’s that? Oh, you
won’t be able to stay
for tea, you say?
Well, give my best
to the firmament.

Looking at it now, I’m not sure why my poetry instructor was so enthusiastic. Unless it’s simply that, confronted with my other efforts, she suspected this one might be as good as she could hope for. (Though her exact note was: “Wherever you got this, go back for more.” If only it were so easy for a writer to do that!)

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Writer/Screenwriter

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