I’m not a poet, but I wish I were.
I have this image of poets, of people sitting around wearing felted berets, dressed in black, congregating in cafes, and sipping bitter black coffee while they scribble words that capture the meaning of life into tattered notebooks. I think I got this picture in my head from watching an episode of “Laverne and Shirley” when I was in grade school. Laverne and Shirley were in a beatnik bar where poems were being read, and instead of clapping after each reading, the audience would snap. Of course, they didn’t fit in at all, and hilarity ensued. At least that’s the way I remember it; I was about nine when I watched it.
I always felt like poets knew secret stuff about life. Not things learned from experience or books, but things only felt and absorbed by their poetic intuition, things the rest of us mere mortals don’t see or can’t understand. Not head knowledge, but feeling knowledge, as if they were able to look at a snowflake and see the mystery of life written on each crystal. The poems they wrote to describe these things don’t make sense to the rest of us – how could they? – but they were all the more beautiful to me for their inscrutability.
I really, really wanted to be like that, especially when I was younger, and I would get royally ticked off when I was not. I did own a selection of berets, but mostly I wore them out on dates even though they were not at all in style. Sometimes I would make myself a steaming cup of chamomile tea, and put on my favorite beret, and go sit on my porch to observe an ant walking over the spine of a grass blade, and wait for the cosmos to open up a portion of my mind that would enable me to write opaque but meaningful free form verse. I wanted to write like e.e. cummings, but instead I wrote drivel like this:
s l o w l y
Do you notice that when people who don’t understand poetry try to write it, they place all their words in a vertical column, instead of horizontally across the page? I’m no expert, but I am PRETTY SURE that there is more to the art of crafting a poem than listing all the words in a long strand down the length of the page.
I’m older now, and although I can admit that I’d like to be able to write meaningful poetry, I can accept my limitations. I have many talents, but writing poetry is not ranked among them. I still enjoy dressing in black and sitting on my deck while I write random thoughts in my notebook. Nobody needs to know that I’m filling the pages with stick figure drawings or writing humorous notes on the time I got lost in the mall parking lot. Every now and then, for my own amusement, I write the words like this:
Then I go make myself a cup of tea. If only I could find my old beret…