Poet, Be Like God

I’ve briefly mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again: I think if there’s one, immediately irksome subject for a poem to tackle, it’s writing poetry — describing the writing process, the agony of writer’s block, the expectation from an imaginary audience. Such poems are inaccessible to people who have no interest in writing poetry. They’re annoying to people who do. The only audience I could see actually enjoying such self-important, self-indulgent, generally self-y whining are the people who romanticize poetry writing — who think that, if they only had the time, if they only lived in the Catskills, if only there were fresh strawberries, they would be poets.

Unsurprisingly there’s a lot of such poetry out there. Surprisingly to me, today I read one I really liked. Courtesy of The Writer’s Almanac — this is “Man Writes Poem” by Jay Leeming.

This just in a man has begun writing a poem
in a small room in Brooklyn. His curtains
are apparently blowing in the breeze. We go now
to our man Harry on the scene, what’s

the story down there Harry? “Well Chuck
he has begun the second stanza and seems
to be doing fine, he’s using a blue pen, most
poets these days use blue or black ink so blue

is a fine choice. His curtains are indeed blowing
in a breeze of some kind and what’s more his radiator
is ‘whistling’ somewhat. No metaphors have been written yet,
but I’m sure he’s rummaging around down there

in the tin cans of his soul and will turn up something
for us soon. Hang on?just breaking news here Chuck,
there are ‘birds singing’ outside his window, and a car
with a bad muffler has just gone by. Yes … definitely

a confirmation on the singing birds.” Excuse me Harry
but the poem seems to be taking on a very auditory quality
at this point wouldn’t you say? “Yes Chuck, you’re right,
but after years of experience I would hesitate to predict

exactly where this poem is going to go. Why I remember
being on the scene with Frost in ’47, and with Stevens in ’53,
and if there’s one thing about poems these days it’s that
hang on, something’s happening here, he’s just compared the curtains

to his mother, and he’s described the radiator as ‘Roaring deep
with the red walrus of History.’ Now that’s a key line,
especially appearing here, somewhat late in the poem,
when all of the similes are about to go home. In fact he seems

a bit knocked out with the effort of writing that line,
and who wouldn’t be? Looks like … yes, he’s put down his pen
and has gone to brush his teeth. Back to you Chuck.” Well
thanks Harry. Wow, the life of the artist. That’s it for now,

but we’ll keep you informed of more details as they arise.

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  1. “All of the Similies Are About To Go Home.”

    Title for the next Built to Spill album?

    All but confirmed.

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