The Good Life: Poets Write Poems, So I Wrote A ‘Pome’
By Denny Bonavita
Can a bricklayer cut stone instead of bricks? Can a first-grade teacher educate a high school algebra class?
Yes. Adjustments are required, but those fields of competence do overlap.
I did something like that. I wrote a pome.
I do not call what I wrote a “poem.” Some of my friends are poets. I would not insult them by equating what I wrote with their vivid imagery.
And no, I did not start out with, “There once was a man from Nantucket.” Limericks can be fun, even if off-color, but they are not poetry.
It had probably been 60 years since I last made a serious attempt at poetry. That was back in my high school/college days when we students were required to experiment with various forms of literature.
Is writing a poem like riding a bicycle, where the skills rarely vanish altogether? Or is being a poet like being a second baseman in adult baseball? I played second base in adult baseball. Even when I could turn a double play, I did not turn really good double plays. Today, if I attempted that athletic movement, I would guarantee a visit to an orthopedist. That baseball skill set is long gone, but I can still ride a bicycle.
So I tried to write a poem. It actually was published.
“I Wait Outside” is a cadenced trope about incipient Daddyhood. I won’t inflict it on you here. If curiosity consumes you, it can be found at artsy venues in DuBois, Brookville, Punxsutawney and Clarion in exchange for eight bucks.
The money goes to a quarterly literary magazine, The Watershed Journal.
I have been a Dad for decades. I enjoy reflecting on parenthood.
So I wrote about Daddyhood, but I felt like a fish out of water while reaching for the imagery and rhythms that are so vital to poetry.
I am a writer, sure enough. I can still use journalistic techniques if need be. I still write these columns.
But there is little demand for poetic odes to the sinus-clearing aspects of chicken manure or the shades of color in the bruises I inflict on my age-stiffened self.
Writing is something I have always done, so why can’t I turn out a decent poem, mystery, speech or eulogy. I tried. Decent? Yes. Good? Not so much. I bumped up against the literary equivalent of baseball’s playing out of position.
A writer I admire, Stephen King, has produced nearly 70 books, most in the mystery novel genre.
In his “On Writing” book, King explained why I won’t ever be a great poet. He claims that with effort and persistence, a good writer can become a very good writer.
A bad writer, he declares, cannot ever become better than mediocre. Even a good writer cannot become a great writer by effort alone. Talent and ability must also be present in sufficient quantity.
I have had some success in my own little frog ponds of newspaper journalism and opinion writing, but being a poet is another matter altogether.
The creators of a new quarterly literary magazine in our area, The Watershed Journal, also offer writing workshops. They have even been desperate enough to dragoon me into presenting some viewpoints. I talked. But I also listen, to local people whose writings use the same English language but in much different ventures.
I have been re-educated in the linguistic similarities and startling differences between the works of those of us who write to inform and those of us who write to emote.
“I write for myself,” some poets declaim. “I don’t care what anybody else thinks of my work.”
I can’t see the sense in that. For a half-century and more, I have written for other people. But my writings usually do not create or probe emotional depths.
In my bones, I believe E.M. Forster’s epigram: “Only Connect.” Forster, the writer of 1910’s “Howard’s End” said that readers are as important to literature as are writers.
When I wrote the poem about preparing to become a Dad, I had several people in mind as imaginary readers. The poem “worked,” after a fashion. So at age 77, I am 1-for-1 as a poet.
I do not plan to try again to write poetry. No. Another attempt could end up at 1-for-2, ignominious failure. I am not enough of an artist to take that risk. I’ll stick to being a craftsman, satisfied at having met one challenge but comfortable staying where I belong.
Poets write poems. I’ll leave my “pome” alone and stick with non-fiction prose in 800-word snippets.
It’s that “connect” thing. I love it.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.