I was a Poet (capital P). An Artist (capital A). I was, therefore, an A-hole (another capital A) who thought himself a Poet Artist. It happens to us writers right after college. All that book-learning — recitations of Poe and Dickinson, Shakespeare and Sandburg. Indeed, upon my graduation I returned home to Olympia, Washington and my mom’s house. I returned to my room, in the back of the house, my dad’s old study that still had his Civil War posters on the walls (the ones I marked up with pens, giving mustaches to those that needed them). It was there that I wrote poetry. It was there that an Poet Artist A-Hole, who thought himself worthy of literary prestige, resided.

That is why, of course, I commandeered many a poetry reading at the nearby strip mall Barnes & Noble (the one near Petco). Indeed, sirs and madams, after all the blue hairs cadenced off their brain-numbing poetry about cats and gardens and mist and crap, I, nimble-witted, words glorious, would stand before the crowd (maybe 8 of us in total. Some blue hairs, a couple hot college girls) and regale them with my wondrous poetry. By “wondrous” I mean “self-indulgent crap” from an a-hole.

The poetry that would cascade from my lips like a melancholic butterfly, would be about depressing subjects — suicide; WWI vets getting gassed; broken hearts; suicidal WWI vets with broken hearts getting gassed). It would be about noble stuff (a father caring for a sick child; a sick child dying of  a broken heart while getting gassed). The blue hairs would sniff upon my completion of my vigorous heartfelt soliloquizes, by the Starbucks baristas whipping up no-foam lattes. The hot girls would clap, whisper to me as I sat back down, “Good job.”

“You want to go to Denny’s after?” I asked.

“Sure.”

One of the girls, maybe a year younger than me, was named Julie. I liked Julie. She was pretty, for one. She appreciated my poetry, for two. There is no three, those two are good enough. Me and Julie would meet at the poetry readings and then would go do Denny’s. We did this for awhile.

I wrote crappy William Stafford-esque poetry at the time. Stafford was my favorite poet at the time. He was a Northwesterner. He taught my mom at Lewis & Clark College. He liked referencing the outdoors. “Now our trees are safer than the stars,/and only other people’s neglect/is our precious and abiding shell.” Stuff like that.

So, seeing as how Julie liked my Stafford-esque poetry, I wrote it for her and recited it to her and her alone. “The tidal pool of the moon/shores reaching back long/don’t hold sway over you and I/me and you in the dusk of 1,000 tomorrows.” Stuff like that.

It worked! The poetry worked! We kissed. We kissed some more. We held sway over one another for several dusky tomorrows.

There was this girl I worked with, Marie. She was pretty, perky, funny. She said she loved Jim Morrison. Knowing nothing about Jim Morrison I went to the library and read all I could about the man. His poetry sang to me. “Monarch of the protean towers/on this cool stone patio/above the iron mist/sunk in its own waste.” Stuff like that.

So, naturally, I started writing terrible Morrison-like poetry and recited them for Marie. “At the bus stop/two women fought/over 2 dimes/on the ground/crows fly in spoked trees.” Stuff like that. “This Bible/the one I’ve carried/since that Motel 6/isn’t dog-eared/panting Messiah.” Stuff like that.

What side of me would win the girl the quickest? The nature loving pacific Stafford type guy? Or the roustabout Morrison type?

Stafford wrote, “What you fear/will not go away. It will take you into/yourself and bless you and keep you./That’s the world, and we all live there.”

Morrison wrote, “I can make the earth stop in/its tracks. I made the/blue cars go away.”

I wrote poetry but nothing good. I’m not William Stafford. I’m not Jim Morrison. I was a college guy living at my mom’s house picking up chicks at Barnes & Nobles located in strip malls.

The thing is, they both worked. My Stafford poetry got me loving over the teriyaki place with Julie. Morrison’s drunken haiku got me drunkenly in love with Marie. But, of course, passions fade. So do the poems we memorize in college. Julie and Stafford and me drifted. Barnes & Noble became a bland exercise and after she took a morning after pill at my request, things soured.

Me and Marie got married (I wrote my own vows as the Groom [capital G]). We had a few good years, a great kid, a few bad years. Things soured. We eventually divorced.

Things are okay now. I don’t write much poetry anymore (do Yelp reviews in haiku form count?), but I do still read it. And I’d read Stafford’s “At the Un-Natural Monument Along the Canadian Border” any day over Morrison’s “Lamerica.” I don’t know what this says about the poetic women I fell in love with but it does that Stafford, to me, was an actual poet. Morrison was a Poet Artist.


 

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