If poets laughed dishonestly
As people laugh and talk in crowds,
If writers wept for private loss
And never said a word aloud –
In short if they felt as we feel
(And who denies their human lives?)
Then we can never really know
Except for fictions left behind
What makes a mind as bright as brass
And our life seem as clear as glass.
So, I just released a book!
It’s called By The Days, and is a compilation of the poetry I’ve written, online and off, in the past ten years. I’m not going to lie: a major chunk of it is The .Doc File Of J. Alfred Prufrock. If you’re not interested in hearing me ramble about it but are interested in buying it, you can scroll to the bottom where there be links.
Poetry is a difficult thing for me because I don’t have the critical consciousness for it that I have for prose. I can read a book and know if it’s a decent book or not, even if I don’t actually like it. With poetry, all I can really tell you is whether I like it, not whether it’s any good. The first time I mentioned to an English major that I liked Rudyard Kipling’s If, you should have seen the face she made. It was beautiful, in its own way, but it made me cringe and mentally note never to bring up my enjoyment of that poem again. (I was a lot younger then and gave more fucks what English majors thought of me.)
I don’t know how one goes about quantifying poetry on a critical level. I suppose I could take a class, but my past encounters with the academia of poetry have been less than positive. I think the most meaningful lesson in the craft I ever got came from my high school chemistry professor: “Free verse is like tennis without the net. Sure it’s fun, but what’s the point?”
Mind you, I have written free verse. And I do see a point to it. But whenever I read free verse I get that ultra-plebian voice in my head asking why it doesn’t rhyme.
So much of the common criticism of poetry seems based on judgement; it’s never whether you enjoyed it, but whether you ought to have. There’s a great exchange in a Rex Stout novel (Death of a Doxie) that sums it up:
Wolfe: I thought you had an engagement.
Archie: It’s for one o’clock, and I may skip it. The lunch will be all right, but then a man is going to read poetry.
Wolfe: Whose poetry?
Most of the fun in poetry, it sometimes seems, is in being snotty about it.
At any rate, having finally run out of fucks to give about English majors judging me, I put all the poems in a book and it’s now available for your consumption (and snobbery, if you so desire).
You can purchase the Paper edition or the ePub edition at Lulu.com; you can also find the book for free at my Gutenberg archive. If you are interested in a signed copy, there is more information here at my livejournal about how to sign up to purchase one (profits from signed copies, as ever, are donated to a not-for-profit of my choosing, in this case 826Chicago).