Category Archives: poetry

Blue Sunrise

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I am not a politician. I am not a political writer.  But I have opinions about the policies that affect my life and livelihood.  And my opinions, though often expressed poetically, or even humorously, are based on real troubles never-the-less.

I am disturbed by the problems I see in education.  Teachers are not paid what they are worth.  Anyone with half a brain can see that, for the level of education required of them, the professionalism expected of them, and the ever-increasing responsibilities foisted upon them, they are not compensated for their work in a manner comparable to people who do the same work in the corporate world.  And those comparable workers never have to endure the conditions of a teacher’s job, overloaded with students, forced to stand and deliver to a hostile audience whose behavior you are responsible for controlling six or seven times a day, and then being evaluated by how that audience does on tests that often measure the wrong thing with financial punishments waiting for failure and rarely any rewards waiting for success.

I started teaching in 1981 in South Texas for a salary of $11,000 dollars a year. That was below the poverty line in 1981.  If I had a family at that time, we would’ve been eligible for food stamps.  The highest I ever earned was $55,000 with a master’s degree, 28 years of experience, and a summer of teaching summer school.  Some one who delivers similar forms of information to a receptive audience in a boardroom, only has to deliver maybe once per day, and is paid upwards of twice that highest amount is treated far better.

And when teachers strike in West Virginia for being the lowest paid in the country, or  a teacher complains on social media by revealing their actual yearly salary from Arizona, or a teacher is forced to move from Oklahoma to Texas for higher pay even though they were the teacher of the year in the State the year before,  there is blow-back.  There are stupid people out there that think teachers are overpaid.  They think all teachers have to do is talk to kids every day, and they have only 185 work days a year, they have the summer off, and their job is one anyone can do.  These stupid people have less than half a brain.  What makes a guy who sits in an office all day with his feet up making decisions about stocks and bonds and business deals worth thousands of dollars a minute?  Teachers, in my amateur political opinionater’s opinion, are underpaid.

To quote the Beatles’ 1969 animated movie, the Yellow Submarine, “It’s a blue world, Max.”  Unfortunately, in the world of education, the Blue Meanies are now in charge.

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Filed under angry rant, education, humor, poetry, politics, teaching

500 Words

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When I started this whole blogging-every-day thing, I decided the rule had to be 500 words written in a day.  And I meant to hold myself to writing 500 words somewhere in the writing day, whether it was my blog post or the novel I was working on, or a combination of both.  I followed that rule religiously through more than 1,500 blog posts and five first draft novels.  I found it easier and easier to surpass 500 words on a daily basis.  There are all sorts of bits of time available and I collect ideas faster than a rich kid generates empty candy wrappers.  The more I call on the well of words for more words, the more words are available.  Now, it seems, writing only 500 words is the trick.

I suppose I have become an Old Man of Words.  I know both the rules and the exceptions.

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Knowing that I can write more than 500 words easily, then the question becomes, why don’t I?  Well, the cardinal rule is “Say it short.  Say it simple. And say it sweet.”  That rule can generate a lot of wonderful writing, full of juicy ideas that splash with flavor when you bite into them.  Ernest Hemingway knew that rule.  Every poet knows it.  Readers generally prefer the easily accessible idea expressed with elegance.

Now, I also have to admit a guilty pleasure in perpetrating purple paisley prose.  That is the style of writing in which I generally write convoluted sentences with complex ideas that fold back in on themselves and over-use alliteration to criminal degrees.  Charles Dickens liked to do that with descriptive details.  Paragraphs about the boarding schools of London, the streets filled with child chimney sweeps and flower girls, and dingy mind-dulling workhouses could take up two or three pages per paragraph.  And two pages further on, he layers more details on the same setting.  Piles and piles of words and wordplay fill the pages of William Faulkner, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust.  And if you haven’t read at least something from each of those gentlemen, you will never know what you are missing.  But you can prune your paragraphs like a greenhouse master florist with limited space will do to his orchids, and you can actually end up fitting great beauty and powerful content into something even more limited than a 500-word essay.  In fact, if you take your ideas and distill them, and keep distilling them, over and over, you will eventually have pared the words down into poetry.

So, there you have it.  The reason my essays are about 500 words.  This one is four hundred and forty one words.

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Filed under poetry, reading, strange and wonderful ideas about life, Uncategorized, wisdom, wordplay, writing, writing teacher

The Philosophy of Bad Poetry

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;

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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.

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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.

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Filed under humor, insight, irony, philosophy, poem, poetry, Uncategorized

A Poem Written on a Picture

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-a poem written by Mickey and pasted on a picture.

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Filed under artwork, healing, humor, insight, poem, poetry

What to Write About Today…

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I have to admit it.  I am pretty goofy.

Probably not Harpo Marx levels of goofy.

But close.

So, I have gone back and looked at what I  have been writing about during the course of my relentless three-year write-a-thon.  I am artist enough to recognize patterns.  At least, I can recognize the big and obvious ones.  Okay, I admit it, sometimes, while thinking, I am really only pretending to think.  That makes me kinda like Harpo, doesn’t it?

I reread one of what I think are my best works just now because somebody viewed it online for some reason I will never know.  The essay is Toccata and Fugue in D Minor written on March 23rd of 2017.  In that essay, I compare a super-condensed version of my life story to Johan Sebastian Bach’s masterwork, one that is represented in Disney’s masterwork Fantasia. My thesis was basically, “Living life is like a piece of classical music.”  Yep, total nonsense.

But that is not nearly as nonsensical as the nonsense I wrote in The Dancing Poultry Conspiracy Theory.  That one should make me ashamed of myself.  Not to mention the danger inherent in revealing a thing that governments of the world have worked so hard to suppress the knowledge of.  There is something seriously wrong with any government who would let wackos use the mysterious martial art of Ententanz Fu on anybody.

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I also fairly recently wrote a poem about writing poetry.  It was called The Secret Behind Poetry and in the course of the poem I carefully reason out that I have no idea at all what the secret behind poetry is.

I am epically good at writing bad poetry.  That is why I was chosen to host the Interstellar Bad Poetry Challenge which I did badly, getting no entries at all from Planet Earth, and being forced to settle on the submissions I posted in The Ixcanixian Bad Poetry Challenge

As I have not yet been vaporized by Ixcanixian skortch rays, then I guess I did the challenge badly enough to satisfy the intergalactic poetry lords of Ixcanix.  I offer that here as proof that I am really pretty bad at writing poetry.

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I am also pretty good at taking an idea and turning it upside down to get a good look at its bottom and to flatten its top a bit.  I did that in an essay called Pessimism as a Super Power.

I suppose it is really about losing a writing contest, but the thesis is valid.  One can save themselves a lot of grief by always expecting the worst outcome to happen.  You are never disappointed according to what you expected unless it is turned into a pleasant surprise.  I also admit that is really a Benjamin Franklin idea, but if you turn Ben upside down, he’s already a bit flat on the top of his bald head and he has an interesting pantalooned bottom.  (That is supposed to be a joke, so try not to be too disgusted with me.)

So, what will I actually write about today?  What is the pattern I am supposed to follow?  Well, it seems pretty obvious, I am basically unpredictable.  So maybe today I will just recycle some old posts and pretend I have been thinking.

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The Secret Behind Poetry (a Poem about Poems)

Poetry is life

Like life, it is sometimes fat and over-gorged

Like life, it is sometimes lean and starving

Like life, it sometimes rhymes

But that is only simile

Simile is not reality

Reality is metaphor

Metaphor is life

Like life, it has to mean something

Like life, it has rhythm, pace, and resonance

Like life, it sometimes rhymes

But this one doesn’t rhyme

And it may not really mean something

And it certainly isn’t reality

So, poet, you don’t know life!

And life is poetry

So you really don’t know poetry

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As If It Weren’t Enough…

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THE WISDOM OF THE LITTLE FOOL

A fool can’t really sum up all of life in a sentence.

But a fool tries.

A fool can’t really say something in immortal words.

Because a fool dies.

A fool can’t really do the job of the wise.

But never-the-less, the fool applies.

But a fool can write a really dumb poem,

And let it sit to draw some flies.

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