I do write poetry. But I must admit, I am not a serious poet. I am a humorist at heart, so I tend to write only goofy non-serious poems like this one;
So here is a poem that rhymes but has too much “but-but-but” in it. A poem about pants should not have too many “buts” in it. One butt per pair, please. So this is an example of spectacularly bad poetry. Why do we need bad poetry? Because it’s funny. And it serves as a contrast to the best that poetry has to offer.
As a teacher I remember requiring students to memorize and recite Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”. Now this sort of assignment is a rich source of humorous stories for another day. Kids struggle to memorize things. Kids hate to get up in front of the class and speak with everybody looking at them. You get a sort of ant-under-a- magnifying-glass-in-the-sun sort of effect. But in order to truly get the assignment right and get the A+, you have to make that poem your own. You have to live it, understand it, and when you reach that fork in the road in your own personal yellow wood, you have to understand what Frost was saying in that moment. That is the life experience poetry has a responsibility to give you.
Hopefully I gave that experience to at least a few of my students.
Bad poetry makes you more willing to twirl your fingers of understanding in the fine strands of good poetry’s hair. (Please excuse that horrible metaphor. I do write bad poetry, after all.)
But all poetry is the same thing. Poetry is “the shortest, clearest, best way to see and touch the honest bones of the universe through the use of words.” And I know that definition is really bad. But it wasn’t written on this planet. (Danged old Space Goons!) Still, knowing that poetry comes from such a fundamental place in your heart, you realize that even bad poetry has value. So, I will continue writing seriously bad poetry in the funniest way possible. And all of you real poets who happen to read this, take heart, I am making your poetry look better by comparison.
Okay, this is the essay part. That first part is a terrible poem written by me to illustrate how to make your own found poem. Of course, you should know that I was not a natural-born poet. I am among the lower percentages of America’s worst-possible poets. Right there somewhere between the poetry books of Farley Bumbletongue and the Collected Musings of Hans Poopferbrains of Snarkytown, Wisconsin.
But I take great pride in my abilities as a terrible poet. You see, what I mainly was, truly was, was an English teacher of middle school and high school kids. And found poems were an activity in the classroom intended to teach writing skills, creativity, and an appreciation of what a poem actually is.
I needed a large usable picture file cut out of Christmas catalogs, Walmart advertisements, newspapers, magazines (“What are those?” is the most common comment you would get out of today’s classrooms,) grocery-store bargain flyers, outdated calendars, and any other non-pornographic picture sources available.
I would hand out three random images pulled out of the picture file without looking at them to each student (or small groups of students) and then require them to create a poem of at least twelve lines with an optional rhyme scheme and rhythm.
I would have to remind them not to eat the pictures, even if they were pictures of food. And with middle school students I would have to have extra pictures for the next class to replace the ones they ate anyway.
I would tell them there was a time-limit, specified to be much shorter than the actual time I planned to give them, and then let them create horrible poetry. Near Vogon quality in its horribleness.
When all of this was done, we would have a good long laugh by sharing the pictures and poems, and find out who the truly wacky and perverted poets were.
Now, don’t go telling parents that we teachers are wasting their children’s precious learning time this way, but it is not I lesson I created. Simply a lesson I used at least once every year.
But the real question on my mind is, “Given three random pictures, what kind of poem would you write?” Feel free to share.
As a boy, drawing girls was always important to me. I didn’t understand them. I couldn’t control them other than to make them dislike me. I couldn’t get away from them… but I could draw them. I could completely control what the picture looked like. And I could make them be whatever I wanted.
Today I went for a walk with my daughter. Both of us are walking to improve our health. But it was a bright and sunny spring day. And in many unexpected places… there were flowers.
Yes, flowers are blooming now in Texas.
And it occurs to me, I was walking in a metaphor. That’s what life is. A finite brief journey from beginning to end. And round every turn… There are flowers along the way. Bright spots of color and gentle, lovely scents… things that make the walk worth taking.
And so, I went for a walk with my daughter today. A walk amongst the flowers.