March 24, 2013
15 of 65
The Poetry Man
This is the beginning of my third week of writing something about my life each day. I am remembering just how difficult is the work of turning thoughts into words. Writing is an art and a craft. It takes practice to build the skills necessary to say anything in such a way that a reader may garner useful information or some meaningful insight. For several years, from my late teens until my early 30s, I tried to develop those skills. I would usually have a notebook or a legal pad handy so I could write down thoughts, observations or interesting phrases as they came to me. I was convinced that poetry is the most precise use of language, and would have aspired to become a poet if I had thought I could support myself that way.
In trying to develop basic writing skills, I practiced writing poems about mundane subjects like Ferris wheels:
Raising myself to meet the stars,
To touch a moon that had not died,
In flight halted at the summit,
Winged beauty at my side.
To my left, across the chasm,
Wooden horses spinning, singing,
To my right the hosts of heaven
Dancing dances, lutes were playing.
Ils se tournent, ils dansent, ils chantent,
La touche de sa main,
Et je vois, je vois, je vois.
or the city dump:
It’s all dead now,
pieces of other people’s lives
left in a heap
to be covered and pushed aside
— perhaps sadly —
and recall a voice you once heard
“This is what eternity must be like
I was trying to say something that might prove useful to others, it is true; but now I think I was mostly trying to impress girls (and that is a traditional purpose of poets throughout history):
Roberta, listen closely, I will say this just one time
And when I’ve finished, I will go away.
We both know nights are coming when I’ll wish you would be mine,
Nights we’ll both remember what I say.
Though you are all the women that I hold in all my dreams,
No longer will I hold you in my arms,
For love is too uncertain to be just what it seems
And life is meant to teach of us of its forms.
You are my lady for all reasons,
All the seasons of my mind.
You are my lady and you will be
For all time.
I should disclose that Roberta, for one, was not very impressed with that poem.
Once, in my early 20s, I decided that I would like to become a published poet – there are too many of the other kind. I went to the library and read through many literary journals and magazines to find the one that seemed the best fit for my style of writing. Then I edited and neatly typed several of my best works, sealed them in an envelope and sent them off for consideration by the editors of the magazine. I waited anxiously for two weeks until the envelope came back to me stamped, “Addressee Unknown.” It seemed the Universe was trying to tell me something.
The only other time that I tried to become published occurred during my third year of law school. While reading the campus newspaper, I noticed an advertisement seeking magazine articles for a publication called Denver Singles Guide. I had never heard of it, so the next day while I was at the laundromat waiting for my clothes to dry, I walked to the grocery store next door, found a copy on their magazine rack and leafed through it. There were articles on issues like where to go on a first date and what the color of your tie or scarf may be saying about you. There was an astrology column and an advice column. I thought, “Hmmm. It seems the focus is on interpersonal relationships from perhaps a pseudo-psychological, pseudo-spiritual point of view. The editors would probably like an article on love spells.”
If I had known anything about love spells, I would have written something right then. I didn’t know anything. Still, I was intrigued enough with the idea that a couple of days later I researched the subject at the university library and composed an article entitled “Love Can Be Magic.”
I sent that article to the magazine and once again waited anxiously for several days. When there was no response whatever, I continued to wait but less anxiously for several weeks. When there was still no response, I put the thought of becoming a published author out of my mind.
Nearly two years later, I received a phone call from a gentleman who identified himself as the new editor of Denver Singles Guide. He said that he had found my article on love spells in the magazine’s files and would like to publish it – if I would do some minor editing. I did as he asked and the article was published under the title “How To Make Love Magic.” I was paid $35, making me a professional writer.
I was practicing law by that time (my day job), so the editor asked if I would write another article about legal issues that may interest his readers. I wrote a short piece on common law marriage in Colorado. However, since I was now a well respected [?] professional author, and since I was not very impressed with the literary quality of most of the writing in Denver Singles Guide, I asked that it be published under a pseudonym. It was, and I was paid another $50. I did not write anything else for publication. I was working hard at my day job and my writing time was taken up with pleadings, briefs, contracts and business letters.
I mentioned above that impressing the girls was one motive for writing. The most impressive lady I have ever met is my wife, Cathy. We have been married for over 33 years and have known each other for five additional years. You would think that she has probably been the muse and inspiration behind poem after poem. Not so many as she deserves, but here is one:
I counted the nights
until they became years,
writing of loves and lovers
I have never known,
nor shall I ever.
Now love has found me
and I greet it,
not with a song,
but a smile —
I would rather be
than write a poem;
rather touch the moon
than trace it.