Eat, Drink, Blog / Gypsy's Musings

Don’t I Know It: I’m No Poet

BMC25Oh, okay, so it’s been another month. Shoot me (although, considering my new digs, maybe I should refrain from ironic invitations). So, what’s been going on?

  1. We moved. In the middle of the school year. To a neighborhood unlike any I’ve ever lived in before (i.e. it’s in ungentrified Brooklyn). A long story that I will write about at some point, but not today. I. Just. Can’t.
  2. I wrote a book in three weeks. Technically, it was really 1/2 a book (i.e. 40K words). I can’t say much about it because it was ghostwriting. I can say it was about beer.
  3. I started a new job (part-time, loving it), which is also about beer. And writing. And writing about beer.
  4. I went to my 25th college reunion and managed to trip, fall, and fracture my sternum. This is not an activity I recommend to others. And by that, I mean of course going to your 25th college reunion. [Insert snarky emoji here]
  5. I got divorced. Officially.

I could easily write about any of these topics—or all of them—or about the whirlwind—and frankly pretty awful—year that has just passed, bookmarked by my parents’ wedding anniversary (last year was their 50th; they’re in the city to celebrate their 51st). Or I could write about my own milestone as a parent, which is the “graduation” of my son (cue Bob Parr—aka Mr. Incredible—saying: “It’s not a graduation. He’s moving from the fourth grade to the fifth grade.”) from elementary school (in NYC, he’s moving from the fifth grade to the sixth grade).

While any of these topics most certainly would be grist for my mill, I will beg your indulgence and hope to revisit some (all?) of them another day. Because I’m working on a poem that I want to share with the world.

Before you cringe and run from your media device, let me just say that I’m no poet. It’s actually been for just over a year that I’ve identified as “beer writer” (you know? that thing you say when the inevitable “what do you do?” comes calling). In fact, it’s only been since last October that I’ve been focusing exclusively on beer writing. Prior to then, I would claim to be able to write pretty much anything, excepting three genres: technical writing (which I can and have done, but I’m not worth the top dollar you should pay to get an expert), short story (because I am a novelist by nature, with big ideas that I don’t care to whittle down to bare bones; in other words, I can, but I don’t), and poetry.

Because I suck at writing poetry.

Speaking of college…

When I was a freshman, there was a poetry writing class offered. You had to apply by submitting a poem to the professor. When I wasn’t accepted into the class, it felt like the worst kind of rejection (I had written quite a lot of poetry in high school). When I questioned the professor on why my work wasn’t deemed worthy, he said, “You never submitted a poem.” I was in his office at the time, and I had written a poem in the shape of a candle with dripping wax (something about how dreams die out, or some such morbidity). This was back in the day of typewriters, so there was no kerning or font shifting. It was both visually arresting and a good poem, I think. Very haiku-ish.

Because it was so distinctive. I immediately could see it on his desk, thrown in a pile of other papers. I pulled it out to show him that I had, indeed, submitted my work. He said, “Oh, yes. But there was no name on it.” At which point I flipped the paper over and showed my name clearly written on the back. Having already submitted more than one competitive writing piece in high school, I had stupidly followed the format of not having one’s name on the front page. Whether my “blind” submission impressed him or not, he informed me that the class was at capacity and I couldn’t join.

On a side note, most of the classes I really wanted to take at that school seemed to exclude me. It was very much a sign that I had chosen to attend the wrong institution… But I promised a story for another day.

This non-event was followed by my majoring in Russian. Now, the Russian poets are—in my not so humble opinion—right up there with the Greeks and Shakespeare when it comes to poetry. It helps that Russian is an extremely grammatical language (unlike English, you can mix up the word order because there are seven—seven!!!—declensions), so rhyming and rhythm are exquisite.

On a different tangent, it’s funny how certain languages lend themselves to differing expertise. Of course, these are highly subjective and somewhat stereotypical, but who doesn’t hear French as la langue d’amour or German as percussive (militaristisch) or Italian and think of madre’s eccellente linguini? Well, I read Akhmatova and my heart aches. Even Mayakovsky is pretty damn amazing. All of Russian literature (now largely a beautiful thing of the past as western sensibility took over the country following the fall of the Soviet Union) is transcendent for the most part. Just try reading The Master and Margarita and not be moved spiritually.

Anyhow, my point is that whatever bravada I may have had as a youth regarding my ability to write poems was utterly squashed by the time I left college. I was no poet, and I totally knew it (see what I mean?!?).

Until a couple of days ago, I hadn’t attempted even mock poetry (you know, the “bad” poem you stick in a narrative to illustrate bad poetry) in decades. And then I took a ride on the L Train and felt the muse rise in me. The set-up was two hipster girls trying just a bit too hard to look like dykes. I didn’t buy it. I mean, maybe it was that 25th reunion (my first college was an all-women’s school) where I got to spend a weekend with a lot of truly amazing LBTQ women (and men—I’m very proud of the fact that Bryn Mawr College has a transgender presence on campus in 2014).

Regardless, for whatever reason, I found these hipster women really irritating. It was their faux sensibilities clashing with my sage—read: old—experience. I suppose the feminists who came before me and watched us all drop out of the workforce to have babies probably were similarly irritated. I don’t like the way women bash each other and judge one another for our choices, but… (You knew there would be a “but…”)

I felt the urge to write down a few lines. So much so that when I got to my subway stop, I transferred to the bench rather than put away my notebook in order to keep writing a bit more. Is it a good poem? Probably not. But I’d love to hear whatever feedback you can share. Otherwise, thanks for reading thus far.

Brooklyn Broad Streets

Hey white gurrlz.

I see you standing there
Clad in your punk-chic
Clinging to a post on the L as though you don’t care about being thrown from the train.

Your earlobes misappropriated from another sister’s culture
Offer up two holes that peer into your soul.
Your meticulously curated lackadaisy fashion shows deliberate disdain for the hipster
From whose forehead you sprang.

Is it wise to park your keychain on your belt,
Your brazen keys enticing some ne’er do well to snatch them from you,
Dragging you behind like some archaic cavewoman now with short spiky hair that should preclude non-consensual conquest?
Or do you tempt with your precariously perched pocket of Pyramid
Reds readily longing to leap?

I know what you don’t.

That the sisters who came before you
Who blazed the trail you seemingly mock
Or ignorantly take for granted.
Womyn were raped for how you look today.
For daring to be different.
To be their most true selves.

Have you an identity?

Because what I see is Billy Burg’s wet dream:
He sees you and your gurlfriend and he dreams of being in your Bed
“Stuy? No, baby, this place ain’t a mess.”

I see your pale legs, bare except for an inky vine climbing your calf.
So obviously waxed. Not shaven even.
I’ll wager your Bushwick detours at Brazil.


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