Mar 24 Written by 

I Want to Be Another Poet

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I'd like to be another kind of poet, writing poems that really get taken seriously. A few years back I tried this. Only one of those poems was completed. It was somber, serious, international in scope (the subject was the great Korean poet, Ko Un. I was not at all making up what I felt when I saw him read: respect and awe). I described the sweaty-warm spring day. The poem was also highly referential (if you couldn't deduce that the poem was about Ko Un you wouldn't get it), sharply observed (he wore a wrinkled dress shirt too big for him), and ultimately my poem was really about the power of poetry. Top that!! I titled it "How to Change Everything" and asked a poet friend for an opinion.

"What were you trying to say here? Makes no sense," he complained. I said, "But this, and this..." He wasn't buying. I saw that I was not going to become an author of serious, ominous poems about important international and social currents -- at least not by deliberately trying.

Not long ago tried a longer, solemn poem about something else important. Responses said it started out okay, had some good moments. Greatness was not mine.

Alas, like a singer I apparently have a range. Quirky, "jazzy" and "cute." I guess as long as I'm healthy and have enough to eat there is no point in wishing things were different. I've tried working within my range with very serious subject matter: In one poem I think is a good one, the speaker verbally abuses an ugly girl on a crowded greyhound bus. While I read it, the workshop laughed. "What are you laughing at? This is a very tragic poem," I said. The reply: "It's just the way you put things, like, her stye looked like a tomato seed." "But that's what a stye looks like," I said, chagrined.

Think it's time I gave up.
2257 Last modified on Saturday, 26 March 2011
Catherine Rankovic

Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.