Monday, December 12, 2016

Poems won't make you famous

I don't write a lot of poems these days.  Back when my goal was to write a poem every day, I must have covered every subject I know, because I don't seem to come up with a desire to write anything original these days, at least not anything that rhymes.  And in my opinion, if it doesn't rhyme, it isn't poetry; I don't care WHAT my English teacher told me about "free verse".  

There was a time in my life when people knew I wrote poems regularly, and I'd get requests:  "Could you write a poem for my friend's birthday?"  "I wonder if you would write a poem for my son's graduation?"  "So-and-so is moving away from this area.  Please write something for her."

I'd instruct these folks to write a lot of things about the person they had in mind, anything and everything they could think of, incidents that happened, things that described the individual's personality, favorite activities, beliefs... whatever gave me ideas from which to fashion a poem or song; "I won't use everything you give me," I'd tell them, "but if I have lots of stories to choose from, I can probably come up with a poem."  

If the person wasn't stingy with their notes and ideas, I could usually make something of it.  Once in a while when I asked someone to do this, they'd be totally stumped, as though they expected me to make a poem out of nothing, or write wonderful things about a person I knew nothing about.  No way.

Over a year ago I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea for a poem.  Like all of my best creations, the poem practically wrote itself and is one of my favorites.  I read it for our tractor club friends at the Christmas party in 2015.  They loved it, and some of them have been trying to get the thing printed in any publication at all, urging me to send it in so I could become well-known (ha ha).  I appreciate their thoughts, but after all these years the idea of pushing for fame, no matter how small, bores me.  

People have been telling me for years, "You should get that song (or poem) published."  

If only they knew how many cassette tapes were returned to me from Nashville in the 80's, unopened and stamped with the words "unsolicited material".  I even had a local publisher for a while and had some of my songs recorded by local folks trying to make a name for themselves.  As for the poems, there's no demand for them, although I've had some people tell me that my kind of poems would make good greeting card verses.  Someone suggested I contact Hallmark.  I didn't do that, because then I'd be attempting to write something generic that would work for people I don't know anything about.  I'm not that creative or inventive.

Anyway, at this year's tractor club holiday dinner a lady handed me a form she had clipped from a farm magazine hoping I would submit my poem "Old Men and Their Tractors" to them.  They're calling it a contest, but as far as I can tell the prize is that they might print it in the magazine.  That's fine, there's no money in poems anyhow.  

I searched online and found out the magazine has a website and that I could copy and paste the poem into an email, so I decided to do it.  If nothing else, my tractor club friends would be happy to see it in print.  


Jon said...

I have no doubt that you'll get the tractor poem published. Your work is good, but the biggest problem is always finding the right publication. In my youth, I went through exactly all the frustrating things that you mentioned - - including music tapes that were returned "unsolicited".

I completely agree with you that if it doesn't rhyme it isn't poetry. I started writing free-verse simply because rhymed poetry, to me, is far too restrictive. The biggest problem with free-verse is that writers have become extremely sloppy with it. They throw together ANY words at all and call it poetry. Poetry - even free-verse - has to have some semblance of structure.

I managed (somehow) to get nearly 100 poems published in my "creative" youth - but my interest in poetry has waned drastically. Recently, I completed writing a children's book of 18 poems (all of which rhyme). And I discovered that I had lots of fun writing traditional poems. It was much more challenging than writing free-verse.

Hopefully some of this makes sense. One of my cats jumped on my lap while I'm writing this and is irritating the heck out of me.


POETRY is a wonderful way to put feelings to paper. I bet the tractor poem gets published too.

Sister--Fleta said...

I love the tractor poem.