Poetry Reading


Poetry Reading

In poetry everything is permitted. With only this condition of course, you have to improve the blank page.
Nicanor Parra

The young man is called upon
to read his poem, The Folly of
One’s Endeavors, forty lines of free
verse, which he delivers with
self-assured panache, imagines
the plaudits that will follow. Wrong.
The instructor says the poem feels
contrived and unoriginal, overly poemish
(a new term for him). Her judgment
is that the poet’s style is strained,
imitative of much of today’s mediocre poetry.

The work is rudderless, without
a solid theme, a poem should have
purpose she scolds. It isn’t
a framework to decorate with
pilfered metaphors and similes.
She says his parched similes appear
to have crawled knees, belly, and
elbows across the Mojave to find
a poem, any poem.

Continuing she suggests his attempts
at poetic obscurity mid-poem are silly
and self-indulgent. She tells him family
and friends who might read his poems
will expect and deserve clarity —
leave perplexity to John Ashbery, Poetry
Magazine, and word play enthusiasts.

Wrapping up it is revise, revise, revise —
hammer your thoughts down into something
real. Along with the withering critique, that
was the extent of the instructor’s counsel.

Properly chastened, with a mix of humility
and anger, the deflated would-be poet swallows
hard, thanks the instructor for the appraisal.
He folds his poem into fourths, places it
in a file folder, eager to make it disappear

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