Making Sense of Making Sense

People don’t like poetry. I probably should say most people don’t like most poetry, but that’s holding out what I feel is a false hope. Poetry makes people feel stupid, on purpose. I know this because I took a class on creative writing, actually I was taken from the class across the shoulder of a body builder named Texas Jack Gonyo who bodily lifted me from my seat in the classroom and carried me to a local river bank to save me from getting incandescently polluted.

Vocabulary tricks, esoteric references, and minutely inconsequential inferences were, and probably still are, all the rage in academical sanctioned poetry anthologies. If left opened on the laundromat reading table they will generate all the enthusiasm and empathy of outdated copies of the Watchtower. It’s not the reader’s fault if we don’t get it. It would be too easy to blame popular culture as the culprit since the next Bob Dylan has apparently devolved into a drum sample machine, but the fault in our scribes is best laid at the feet of the false idol of anti-fame.

To be a poet is to be obscure,almost rhymes with poor, and you’re going to be hard pressed to name ten poets if I ask you to. I won’t because I’d have to cheat to name ten myself, even if I put mys on the list. I’d be on your list of course, but like I told a friend recently who said I was his favorite poet, that also means I’m the only poet he knows. How we as a culture got here is a quest for historians, I’m more interested in what we, or at least I, can do about it. The first real poetry critic I ever met, at an open mic performance way back in the Milwaukee of yesteryear, wanted to know if what I wrote got me laid. Poetic relevance had a measuring stick I had been unaware of until that point.

Upon reading my first book, “Woof Dem Babies Down” circa 1972 my father said, “You ought to write, Bill.” I told him I just did. His response rationalized creating a nom de plume to write under which added yet another layer to the brand of obfuscation I sensed my street cred required. A few books and a short touring career later, this time armed with a handful of years of sobriety, I began to write new material that still sounded like my voice, but had begun to move out of the wilderness into the tabernacles and kitchen counters of people I knew and cared about.

Poetry became more interpersonal, still interpretive of course, but functional, pointed in the write direction and plain as the spiritual warpaint on your face. After fifty years of this one finger pecking in short concise moments, I received the validation I’d long sought, when a reader told me, “My wife and I don’t do poetry, but we both cried when we read this one.”

That poem, “The House of Miracles Grew Up Around Us” is perhaps the hidden gem in my new book Head Lines. (Available at, Amazon, and three local bookstores near me) It would make sense for me, as an Independent Author, to encourage you to get a copy and make sense of it yourself, and while you’re at it, write a review for me on Amazon. it will give you a chance to test your vocabulary for veracity, and verisimilitude. Thank You.

Will SchmitComment