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September 27, 2012 11:49 am

MY LOUSY WORLD: You call this poetry?

Written by Doug Blough

Good poetry is definitely in the eye of the beholder. I simply cannot wrap my pretty head around poetry that doesn’t rhyme. It’s like women’s beach volleyball without bikinis. I’ll go a step further and say “a poem that doesn’t rhyme is like a bell that doesn’t chime.”

My writing career began during my documented “Heartbreak of ’89.” Indeed, our greatest creativity is born from our greatest tragedy, and I was one tragic sucker that winter. I found myself putting emotions to paper, which probably slowed my descent into madness (which didn’t occur till many years later). During that time, a friend from church, Mick Wiest, who was also Cody High’s writing teacher would often come to my house to talk, but also to critique and encourage my writing.

Mick was highly influential in my newfound craft, and when I soon was published and being compared to such greats as Hemingway, Tolstoy and Snoopy, Mick even had me twice speak to his creative writing classes. Humor writing came naturally to me, but from my broken heart, a bent for sad poetry was also born.

My mentor Mick took me aside one day, looked deep into my bloodshot eyes and said with deep conviction,  “Doug, I’m begging you … stay away from the poetry!”

Well, I begged to differ. What’s not to love about the moving, “You filled my heart with boundless joy, then ripped it apart with that clownish boy. You married the nerd and I think of him often; I’ll flip him the bird, even from my coffin.”

Ah but I kid the nerds. The real poems I wrote then were actually quite sensitive, albeit sappy. But the important thing is, even when falling apart, I was still rhyming. That’s what makes a poem poetry. Today’s poems seldom rhyme, and for some odd reason, the intellectual community eats it up. Never was it more apparent than in a lengthy newspaper review by Sue Hart, an English professor at Montana State.

She gushes sickeningly about “poet” Jim Harrison and his latest collection, “Songs of Unreason.” (Gag me)! She says, “…I feel as though I do know him — or he knows me, so strongly do the poems in his new collection reflect my own thoughts and feelings.” Well, if you love him so much, why don’t you marry him?!

Anyhoo, I’m expecting some serious rhymes, but read excerpts like, “After a long siege of work, I wake to a different world. I’m older of course, but colors and shapes have changed. The mountains have moved a bit, our children are older. How could this happen?”

And Sue, all googly-eyed adds, “How indeed?” Well, maybe because kids have birthdays just like adults do. And as if mountains can really move. Then there’s this profound little reflection about a visit to the Yukon: “I go away then come home but the jungle’s birds and snakes are with me in the snow. You carry with you all the places you’ve ever been.” (Oh yeah, like that’s an original sentiment).

Sue leads us kicking and screaming further into his mindless ramblings with this intro: “Just a few pages later, he ponders what he calls ‘the basic question of life’”: “Again I wonder if I’ll return…Does Robert Frost know he’s dead? His Yankee wit a dust mote. God’s stories last until no one hears.” OK? And then what? Where is even one rhyming stanza? Where indeed?

No, that is not poetry. This is poetry: “Lincoln, Lincoln, I’ve been thinking, what the heck have you been drinking? Smell like whiskey, tastes like wine…oh my gosh, it’s turpentine!” Notice the impeccable cadence…how each line ends with a word rhyming perfectly with the next? It doesn’t have to be all wordy and mysterious. It can be as simple as Joyce Kilmer’s, “I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree,” or “A horse is a horse, of course,” by Mr. Ed.

Compare those classics to Harrison’s “Death takes care of itself like a lightning stroke and the following thunder is the veil being rent in twain. In age we tilt toward home, we want to sleep a long time, not forever, but then to sleep a long time becomes forever.” Duh! Yes, death does lead to oversleeping. The veil being rent in twain? What the hell does that even mean?

Sue set up that little gem with, “…he further explores the question of death…”  Mother Goose did it much better while actually rhyming, with “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the kings men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.” We all fall; we all die. There’s no veil on that twain.

Poetry allows us to use words considered inappropriate today, because in poetry, they retain their innocent meanings. For instance, “Poetry sans rhyming seems quite queer, as if the author was drinking beer. When I read the poem that rhymeth not; I wonder if someone was high on pot.”

Will I buy a book of poems by Harrison or any of his illiterate ilk? Quothe the Magpie … nevermore!

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