Peanut Butter & Jelly

I recently attended a reading by poet and novelist Laura Kasischke.  When an audience member asked about her writing habits, she told us that she reads and writes poetry every day.  She felt she could not write poetry if she weren’t reading it daily.  That got me thinking.  With all this writing about poetry, I should start to write a bit of my own.

Since the night of Laura Kasischke’s reading, I’ve read poetry daily.  I keep a few books on my desk, a few on the dining room table, and a few on my night stand.  Reading poetry I can handle – but writing it only makes me appreciate even more the genius of a poet whose work speaks to me.

So, with a good deal of apprehension and sweaty palms, I’m going to share one of my poems with you:

Sunday Guests

This morning I ate too many pancakes
with too many raspberries in them
and too much syrup
and I had a poetry orgy
right there in my dining room
I invited Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Jack Gilbert, and Major Jackson
When Emily Dickinson showed up, I got nervous
but I asked her in
We sat around the table
gazing through the leaded glass window
and thinking how marvelous and perfect it all was

It’s one thing to quickly scratch out a poem.  It’s another to revisit it, edit it, put it down, come back to it, edit it some more, and, finally, let someone read it.  I take comfort in this poem by Jack Gilbert:

Doing Poetry

by Jack Gilbert

Poem, you sonofabitch, it’s bad enough
that I embarrass myself working so hard
to get it right even a little,
and that little grudging and awkward.
But it’s afterwards I resent, when
the sweet sure should hold me like
a trout in the bright summer stream.
There should be at least briefly
access to your glamour and tenderness.
But there’s always this same old
dissatisfaction instead.

You see?  It’s even hard for geniuses to write poems.  No wonder the rest of us struggle.  I’ll just keep to my diet of reading and writing.  Like PB & J, they go together so well, I can’t separate them.



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