Once I worked in projective verse,
But found my work was for the worse.
Today I add scintillas of technique
Which, sprinkled in, reveal the scenes I seek.
Thoughts are scantily clad in rime, it’s true,
But other thoughts are hidden out of view.
To offer rules that eviscerate tradition
Is freedom for a day, but for a life — perdition.
In subsidized workshops, our pampered poets sweat,
Renouncing honest doggerel and making bets
On who will win the laurels and be fully funded
(At least ten grand a year, perhaps a hundred.)
To steal this puny prize they teach the kids
To scrawl barbaric yawps on everything they did
And didn’t do to Barbie or to Ken
The Night Before in soy-soaked rooms of girly men.
The grades they get are rightly pass-or-fail
Since all agree that any poem is off the scale
Of justice or of judgment ( Fuck Tom Disch!)
And is always just as good as the poet’s wish.
The other lessons taught in workshop hell
Are: “Rime is always bad and feelings swell!
Express yourself, young and pretty student!
(But know that bending over is still prudent.)
“You see, in this strange game, we’ve got a rule
That states the poet comes before the school.
So please ignore Auden and Eliot, even Dante,
To let feelings, a la Streisand, up the ante.
“By composing from such sources, endless plaints,
You are allowed to shitcan meter’s steel restraints,
And craft within our workshops shapeless blobs
That will sustain your feelings… and our jobs.”
What remedy remains for profs so sodden
With modest grants and laurels cheaply gotten?
There’s no pretending that such men are poets pure,
For “once a bear is hooked on garbage there’s no cure.”
Our only hope is to accurately describe them
As mired in their muck. So woe betide them,
Should they hope to gain a lasting recognition,
Their very work will work for their perdition.
A poem’s not a path to some fat pension,
Nor like a trousered hand releasing inner tension.
A poem requires all one’s soul and mind,
And is, like love and Homer, always blind.
It is not made in workshops, whole or part,
But in the “rag and bone shop of the heart.”
And those that cannot blindly see this seventh sense
Must chained forever be in Castle Indolence.
All poetry is dreaming written clear
To the inner eye that wakes the sleeping ear.
You must listen in iced silence, seeing only night,
If you would give your readers second sight.