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Portrait of a Poet

Posted to WritersAndGenres




When he arrived in our town he was being pursued by people who wanted him to make something of his life. He said, "How can I do that? I have no talents or abilities." People told him he should become a poet. He said, "I will try that."

He was going to go to a university some sixty miles south of town. He was shamming, filling in time on his life. He used the money he had to buy a cottage somewhat outside of the town limits of the town where he was going to school, and he already had an expensive red car.

There he found people who were like him. One lady who lived there played the dulcimar and would play exotic music on it much of the day when she wasn't doing what constituted her life. Another person was an outdoorsman who couldn't hunt where he was but discussed it, and the poet fellow said, "That's pretty much the same thing, from my viewpoint." He got to know them well enough and they all said that since they were living in the same place, they should know something about one another, but aside from that, each of them said he or she preferred privacy.

He took to writing poetry during his second semester at the school, and his first verses were personal abstrusions which no one could understand. They were about as interpretable as Mayan Codices. Then they told him he should have some passion and feeling in his poetry. So he wrote a poem about someone he really detested and the topic was his contempt for this person, the only trouble was he wrote of the other fellow in first person and people thought it was about himself. When oral poetry reading came along there the impression was heightened, for he was not an actor and it sounded like he was expressing his own sentiments. I noted, but only to myself, for I did not tell him anything I'd thought about his poetry, that the poetry was much better if one understood that it was supposed to be someone else; when one thought of it as his own viewpoint it was intolerable, I think mainly because it was noticeably not his own viewpoint, but nobody caught on that it was supposed to be someone else. What came to mind was that the audience would have had a better experience listening to him read if they had understood this aspect of the poems...they were missing out on something by not asking very many questions.

It seemed to me that he was making his way into a hypothetical pre-birth womb in his search for his place in life...the womb of space that was death as well as birth. At any rate, although he was very hip to keeping in touch with reality where it was necessary, he did not otherwise retain much contact with it. Eventually he was forced to discuss his poetry with another fellow who was writing poetry and the two of them decided it would be very good poetically to be able to convey the snarl of a dog in words without saying what it was. However, the other fellow wrote the poem that was like this, and they agreed that it was coming across about as well as it should. Neither thought the reader or listener should know it was this. He also became rather obsessed that he had not written the poem, and wondered what he could write that would have its own individualistic snarl. I don't know if he wrote the poem, or just was expressing how it would be if he wrote it, but some people said he had expressed some very realistic sounds that got at the essence of how such a noise would be in English form.

Finally as a post-graduate he wrote a poem that said he had transcended death. The discussion of this verse forms his social commerce, which he goes into and out of. He says not only are other people describing him as a campus elder statesman, but he calls himself that too.