Friday, October 19, 2012

The Advertisement

"  . . . for those who want to write Poetry Professionally."

Seriously.  That's what the ad said.  Write Poetry (note caps) Professionally (double-note caps.)

I almost dropped my authentic John  Keats-like quill, only $19.95 from Poets R US.  What can it mean to write poetry professionally?  And how to tell a professional poet from someone who just "fools around with words?"

Maybe there's a uniform.  Most professions have uniforms.  The CPA with a tie.  The doctor with the white coat.  Certainly baseball and basketball players.  Bowlers, even, with those cool bags that look like the scrota of Olympian oxen.  But those are team sports.  Writing poetry is a much more solitary art.  

Except, now that I think of it, the doctor goes over charts alone after the last patient.  The CPA loosens his tie and turns to his calculator when the office is dark.   The basketball player shoots a hundred free throws on his own.  At that point they could be wearing anything.

Maybe that's what it is -- time spent alone with a singular focus.  Looks like a professional poet can dress any we he/she wants.  I have an old pair of bunny slippers, one with an eye missing.  Works for me.  But I'm not really a professional.  I just text the muse semi-regualrly and see if she has any work for me.

If not, I'm on my own.  I can look at that poem about the deer with the glow-in-the-dark teeth that I can't finish.  Boy, I'll be if I was a professional poet, I'd know exactly what to do.


  1. Hi Ron – Interesting insights on Professional Poet. Once a woman introduced herself to me as a professional writer – or maybe it was Professional Writer. I asked what that meant; we were at a creative writing event and I figured we were all simply writers. What she told me made me realize that she was a Professional Business Writer – in an Office – with Office Hours.

    Anyway, I wonder if the people behind your ad are secretly recruiting for Professional Business Poets. You could apply and find out. But beware; even though they may not have a uniform, they are sure to have a dress code. And casual as it may be, I bet they make you leave your bunny slippers at home. And forget about muse texting – not allowed, not on company time. And watch out if they catch you even thinking about your glow-in-the-dark-toothed deer!

  2. Ron, I remember reading an article in one of the "leading" writers magazine some years ago with the title, "Write a Children's Book in 30 Days," with instructions for each day. The article made some kind of sense until I read it out loud to an audience and then it seemed so pat as to verge on the impossible. I don'r recall that extra time (days) was permitted to come up with a story idea first. Not even with wearing bunny slippers, Tamera.

  3. Ha! We'll be professional when we're dead.

    As I sd to my
    friend, because I am
    always talking,—John, I

    sd, which was not his
    name, the darkness sur-
    rounds us, what

    can we do against
    it, or else, shall we &
    why not, buy a goddamn big car,

    drive, he sd, for
    christ’s sake, don't
    look where yr going.

    (Tip o' the quill to Robert Creeley -- and John Gilgun, who really fixed up those last two lines.)

  4. Well I did go to a poetry group a few years back where they read aloud other people's poetry, and once a year published a small book of their own. They denied being poets at all-- more like poetry fans. They each read from a "professional poet" aloud, and some read one of their published poems from long ago. I think the new, unedited poem I read made them nervous. They said, "What will you do with it?" "Who is it for? Adults or children?" And then they asked something like, what was I going to be when I grow up? I wasn't sure about that question. I thought I was already grown up. Why else was I hosting a poetry group at the library? So I didn't know what to say to that one.
    The mantra of "playing with words" seems so true. It's sort of an inside out philosophy that people find hard to believe. People are afraid to play with words. Maybe they just want to pat them on the head and admire them. They want to tell a story about a moment, and don't mind if they don't quite describe it. At least its on paper, and if they change a word here or there the moment might be lost forever.
    It's like a painting student I had once. He was a wonderful guy who loved to paint. He was retired, and had painted for about twenty years. We worked together on a landscape. He put down a color of grass or sky or something, which made me ask,"Is that the color you wanted to put there?" He answered no. After twenty years of attending classes, he never ealized it was okay to work over a first attempt. He assumed a professional got it right the first time. I guess it's the same with writers. I guess we are unprofessional when we slap down that first muddy word and don't bother to dismiss it when a better one comes along to prove the distance. I don't think everyone would call that playing. They might call it agonizing or even "work." I think it's some of both.