Written by David Vogel Wednesday, 02 April 2008 17:13I feel like I’ve been disillusioned. All of my life, I’ve been led to believe that poets were overly sensitive people who spend hours sitting in a dark room, meticulously putting their sensitive thoughts onto paper using sensitive words.
The poetry we always read in high school textbooks brought me to the basic understanding that poets are either depressed or in love, sometimes both.
Take Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 18: “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold….”
No, wait. That’s Psalm 18.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 starts, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
Perhaps you thought this line was a creation of a Hallmark card writer. Perhaps you didn’t pass high school English.
However, my stereotypical views on poets—and, as a result, their poetry—were bashed this semester when I began taking an English course at Tabor College. We just finished a unit on poetry in which we read the works of poets from the last couple centuries.
One poet we read was William Carlos Williams.
While we discussed through his poems in class, I couldn’t concentrate because I was too busy thinking about how painfully redundant his name is. It’s like naming your kid Frank Franklin or David Davidson. I can only imagine what the playground taunting was like for him.
Parents who name their kids like this ought to be taken out and shot. Of course, I am just kidding (sort of).
But William’s (or Williams’) poetry struck me as a little odd, which is what brought me to my epiphany about poetry.
For example, one of Williams’ pieces is called “This Is Just to Say.” Here is the poem in its entirety:
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
That’s it. That’s the entire thing. I have a hard time picturing Williams sitting alone in a dark room and writing this.
I can, however, imagine Williams—with purple-stained lips—writing it on a piece of scrap paper and taping it to the fridge.
Writing an apology note is one step further than I normally take. This particular poem caught my attention because I, too, tend to eat things out of the fridge without asking permission. But unlike Williams, I wait until somebody notices that the food is missing before I fess up.
After I thought about it, I decided maybe this poem was just a fluke, a mistake that made it into the anthology book that we use in class. Of course, I was wrong.
Only a page away was another one of Williams’ poems titled, “The Red Wheelbarrow.” It is a whopping 16 words long and discusses how so much depends on a red wheelbarrow, which is next to some white chickens, and happens to be a little damp from the rain.
By now, my views on poetry had been completely destroyed.
Scholars will argue that, despite the simplicity, these poems hold deep meanings and significance, and that poets like Williams probably spent hours trying to find the perfect ways to make their points.
I think the scholars are wrong. I think poets can have just as much fun as the next guy (provided the next guys isn’t an IRS agent) and that from time to time, they need to get away from the seriousness of normal poetry and do something fun.
I’ve given this a lot of thought (at least two or three minutes) and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can probably do this. I’ve never been much for poetry, but I figure if guys like Williams can get famous for writing it, so can I.
So here’s my poem, titled “A Messy Room.”
is such a
really mean to
let it get
but if you care
can clean it
So there you have it. I’m going to send it to the publishers of my college textbook for future editions. I’m sure they’ll love it.
* * *
UFO: Cinderella’s slippers were originally made out of fur. The story was changed in the 1600s by a translator.
Don’t ask why.