Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, August 7, 2014

That Time I Published a Poem

I've published a poem only once that I know of--generally, a good thing for the reading public, I would say. I've never thought of myself as a poet--generally, a good thing for the reading public, I would say. I never had to write any verse in school (that I recall, anyway); I never took a course it in it college or grad school. When I was an undergrad at Hiram College (1962-1966), there were no poetry-writing classes. There were two courses in creative writing--fiction and nonfiction. That was it. And, an English major, I had come to realize that poetry was a lot more complex than I'd ever thought it was back in my boyhood days/daze of nursery rhymes (even they are more than meets the I, so I later learned) and naughty playground and men's room verse. Among the former that I remember ...

Ooey Gooey was a worm.
Ooey Gooey loved to squirm.
He squirmed up on a railroad track ...
Toot! Toot!
Ooey gooey.

I also don't recall that I ever waxed poetic when I was in the sway of Eros. I'm not sure what my Hiram High School flames would have done had I presented them with, oh, "Ode to Unrequited Passion." They probably would have dumped me ("shot me down," in the vernacular of the day) with even more alacrity than usual. But we'll never know. I suppose I could ask at the next high school reunion (#53), but at this stage my classmates and I have a hard enough time even recognizing one another, so what-if? questions about a half-century ago are generally pointless.

I didn't even like poetry that much as a student--beyond the naughty limericks and the like. Often, I couldn't figure out what the damn words even meant; then, once I sort of figured something out, the teacher/professor showed me in about ten seconds how dense and ignorant I was. Imagine, for comparison's sake, someone who'd never looked through a telescope--or a microscope--and then getting the opportunity to do so and realizing there are countless worlds immense and tiny, worlds he'd never even imagined.

I've written poems for Joyce (whom I met in the summer of 1969) throughout our relationship. One of the first I called "The Freeway Cow," about a cow (duh) we saw on the freeway (duh, duh) when we were driving out to Des Moines, early in our marriage (pre-marriage? can't remember), to visit with my parents. Since then I've written numerous others for her--usually for birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day. I wrote one for her retirement from Hiram College a couple of years ago and read it aloud at the gathering, realizing that in the audience were several actual poets, who were kind enough to say nothing afterwards, for which I am eternally grateful. I know what it's like to have to say something to someone who's just done something regrettable. Here's a statement I used when I went to see students in plays that didn't go well: I always love seeing you up there. Pretty good, eh?

"The Freeway Cow," by the way, a Shakespearean sonnet (in name only), ended with this couplet:

A freeway cow can start a steel melee.
Believe in brakes, and that shall make you free.

The problem is, of course, the terminal words don't rhyme--and the accent's on the wrong syllable. (I thought there was no problem at the time.) So what were my choices? and that shall make you fey? And the like? Anyway, I learned a lesson: Use the dictionary. Which I sometimes do.

In recent decades I've written jingles and other doggerel on family birthday and important-event cards. (I shoulda worked for Hallmark--I coulda been a Contendah!*) Occasionally, I do it for good friends, as well--a gift of dubious value.

And, of course, my Facebook friends know that I'm now posting what I call "Daily Doggerel"--which is precisely what it says it is. Sometimes I try something a little more earnest, but it always turns out to fit the series name anyhow. I have published some collections of the DD on Kindle Direct, but that kind of publication, of course, doesn't count. (Vanity, thy name is writer.) What does count is a publication in an actual periodical--which I did. Once.

*For my chronologically challenged readers: This is an allusion to a famous line in On the Waterfront (1954), words uttered by Marlon Brando, who is talking about his earlier boxing career. YouTube, of course, has this very moment for us: Link to YouTube clip.


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