Monday, February 18, 2013

I'm Not a Poet and I Know It

My father wrote poetry.  He wrote a lot of poetry.  He wrote it for fun.  Just about everybody he knew would get an original poem for their birthday, their anniversary or any other date of importance.  I found it bizarre that anybody could do that.

I can't write poetry.

My mother occasionally wrote poetry.  She usually opted to write prose, but every so often she would dash off a bit of poetry.

I can write prose.  I can't write poetry.

Every time some teacher would get it in his or her head to throw out an assignment to write a poem, I would panic.  I would try to bribe one of my parents to fulfill my assignment and save me from the disgrace of having to admit that I can't write poetry.

I stink at writing poetry.

Today I was poking through a book where I keep odds and ends such as obituaries, comics clipped from the newspaper or a magazine, and the odd quotation.  I was surprised to come across a poem that I wrote while I was in college.  I think it may be the only example of poetry that I know that I wrote all by myself and that didn't make me want to apologize for doing so.

I can remember writing the poem in desperation.  I was taking a literature course and someone who had taken the course warned me that the professor was going to have us write a poem, using a particular rhyming convention.  I think I had a case of the vapors when I heard that I was going to have to write a poem, let alone a poem with a specific number of lines and a particular rhyming pattern.  I dreaded the day I would walk into the class and get that assignment.

So I decided for once in my life to try and get the task out of the way ahead of time instead of sweating it out under pressure.  I knew I would not be able to come up with a rhyme for "cat" under pressure.  I surprised myself and actually got a half-way acceptable stanza written and I breathed a sigh of relief and stopped worrying about the assignment that was going to hit me.

I can't remember now what this kind of verse is called.  What I do remember is that the professor never did give us the assignment to write a poem in this style.  All my worry was for naught.

But, I have one poem that I wrote.  And this is it.  Be kind.  I can't write poetry to save my life.  Those genes passed me by.

The weary man walked down the narrow road,
The pain was in his eyes for all to see;
Upon his back he bore the heavy load
Of all the things he once planned he would be,
In other days when youthful dreams were free.
The ways of life he doesn't understand,
The reason for his trials he cannot see.
He lives with his mistakes the best he can,
And now he finds himself an old and bitter man.

(Poem written in 1975, while attending Mary Hardin-Baylor College)

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