Monday, February 27, 2012

The Gifted Program (Why Poems Fail)

A poem can fail because you're too close to it. Or you so desperately want to say something that you trip over your own words. Sometimes, ironically, you're the worst person to tell your own story. This is a poem that doesn't quite work the way I wanted it to. I'm hoping it will come around again with some new insights because I want to tell this story. 

The Gifted Program at Byron
Elementary School

Was two isolated makehift cubicles
Shoved into one corner
Under a map of Antarctica where me
And Michael  Robinson 
Studied humanity

Antarctica is the place where 
Special people go,
 Ms. Stieglitz said

We spent the year alternately
Being President, Vice President
Ulitimately declaring anarchy
Though the mordent precision
Of our isolated obrbit
Assured nothing would ever be
Out of place

They fed us Animal Farm, 
Rice crispy treats,
All the loneliness the "special" 
Amongst us deserve as they learned
To make more and more elaborate
Dunce caps out of papier mache

You designed something I can't 
Even pronounce, died last week

Maybe you've gone back to Antarctica

I hear they need an Ambassador

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wooly Bully

     Not every poem spins off the assembly line blemish free. Sometimes a poem just never assumes the form you had imagined for it. There are numerous reasons why a poem fails. Trying to do too much, starting with a weak inspiration, failing to concentrate and capitalize on the original dose of creative inspiration, writing just for the sake of writing instead of waiting for the force of the Muse's call. This poem started with a really good and interesting idea. I heard an NPR story about a Wooly Mammoth who was moved from a position where its backside was the first thing visitors saw when they entered the museum in Ohio to a more forward facing position. Everything about that scenario seemed to make for a clever poem, but then I started to write. In this case the poetic failing was probably a combination of just writing to write and trying to expand what is really more of just an idea into a poem. I still like the idea as the basis for a poem and it wouldn't surprise me if any of the 1000 or so poets in the world capable of writing a poem that would be included in the The Best American Poetry anthology does so, but it won't be me. 

Wooly Bully

But what better way to enter this
Chamber of antiquity but ass-backwards,
Inviting the citizenry of Ohio to come on,
Take a look around, buy a souvenir
Made of cheap plastic?

Soon, disassembled and reassembled
Bone by bone, Conway the Mastadon
Will make the 10,000 year turn to the East
And greet visitors to the Ohio Historical Society
Face to face.

Forcing the sentimental amongst us to long
For the olden days when history was still
Showing us its wooly ass.

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