Who Gives A Damn About Poetry Anyways?



So why doesn’t anyone read poetry or care?

The simplest explanation is because we try to teach unbelievably difficult poets too soon. At least we did when I was young (things may have changed). These heady classics are forced down our throats a couple times during school — and at pretty inopportune times too. Namely, when we couldn’t care less! The ravages of mid-school, high-school, and even college push the blathering of old, dead white poets down pretty low on our “things to care about” list.

Plus, the kinds of things that make these books classics aren’t fully appreciated until we’ve been through some of them, built up a base of knowledge — not of book learnin’ but of life itself. Until we’ve been through heartbreak and war, until we’ve seen too much fickle and senseless death, until we’ve squandered just enough of our own fragile time to begin to appreciate it, we just can’t follow what these old dead white guys are on and on about.

I dig Yeats. But you have to really crack his work open with a claw hammer to find how it translates to our lives today. And Walt Whitman — to me he is a time-traveler, a poet from another dimension. But as much as I love him, I didn’t get a single word of what he was saying way-back when I was made to read him. Or when I read him again in college. I only gathered a little of what he was saying — and I really wanted to get it! Even now, reading a “classic” can be tough sledding (Moby Dick, War & Peace — I’m looking at you…) So asking middle schoolers, or high schoolers to thresh out the complex messages from dense, and poetic language is always going to finish a distant second to “does she like me?” or “why won’t he ask me out?”

Ah, but Shel Silverstein…or Yoda…or even Biggie Smalls — these are voices kids are already listening to. If we expand our idea of “poetry” and teach the kids using “poets” they actually care about and we’ll not only prepare them to read the masters later, but might just get them to care about poetry again. Hell, use Mad-Libs in class — something!

As I said, I think poetry is around us all the time — in the way a girl eats an apple, or a tired parent climbs into the car on a grey Monday morning to drive back to their job for another goddamned 40-hour work-week. And while I believe there’s room for every kind of poetry (from Yeats’ to Yoda to you), I begrudgingly admit that not everyone’s gonna like it all.

Fair enough.

But you will like some — I promise you that. Look long enough, and you’ll find a Li Po, a Kobayashi Issa, a Plath, or a Jeffers — a Ginsberg, an Anne Menebroker, a Kell Robertson, or an Albert Huffstickler. Maybe you’ll even find a McCreesh.

Your search begins now.

Until next time: another from A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst, one about war and fickle, senseless death…


Sitting in an

apartment complex

hot tub, and rocking

down Tecates, and

all the girls at the party

are young and beautiful,

but you just want to

look at them and imagine,

maybe make them laugh,

because sometimes the rest

is just too complicated,

when a guy with

Army tattoos

climbs in and, for

whatever reason, he

takes to you.


And you figure it’s just

something about struggle,

and understanding it all,

and the girls are long gone

but you’re both still rocking down beers

and he’s opening up a little about

his time in Desert Storm,

“A mounted gunner

on a Humvee,” he says,

“and every few rounds

It’s a phosphorus tracer…”


He invites you to his apartment

for more beers, and while you’re there

he shows you some medals

and a scrapbook filled with pictures,

and he’s sorta looking to you for

how to feel about it all.


Then he brings out an assault rifle,

and you get a little weirded out by it

because he’s really drunk now

and a little emotional,

but you sense he’s a

good guy who is just

lost in his stuff right now,

and in the scrapbook there’s

a picture of a pair of legs,

just legs, the sand around them

painted black with blood and smoke.


“It was a tracer,”

he says. “Hit him

square in the fuckin’ back…”

and he tears up a little before

saying, “The legs just

kept running for a

few steps…” and you

actually give him a hug

and, for a moment,

all the macho shit goes,

and you’re just two people

sharing a difficult

human moment.


Then he says, “Aaaaggggh—Fuck,”

and pulls himself free from you

like he regrets everything,

and says, “You want

another beer?” and

you say yeah, and you

go back to drinking

and looking at guns and

medals, and photos

of his little boy.


And when he finally passes out

you cover him up with the towels,

both still damp from the hot tub,

and you quietly open his front door,

lock it, and softly

pull it shut