Your Serve

I don't play tennis. As a youth my task was to chase down the balls the tennis team hit over the fence. I was around the game enough to know that the backhand was a compliment to one's game. The back and forth, the volley, seemed to me the fun part of the playing. Trying to put one past your opponent is of course the only way to score a point and an aspect of the sport that makes it antipathetical to good writing. Pulling a fast one on a reader is the quickest way to lose the reader's interest. There are no short cuts to being genuine, but having one's tongue in cheek is a valid style of whistling and writing.

I posted a poem last week, Car Tunes, written in a folksy wisdom off the cuff style. It's not a parody as much as an homage to Will Rogers, and or Robert Hunter. It started as a twangy series of one liner sound bites that I recorded while driving. I had a bantering conversation with a colleague at the warehouse, where I make my pick-ups for my day job, that produced a sort of challenge to use a particularly awkward and technical sounding phrase in a poem. I sort of tabled the thought, and even though I wrote the phrase out on a sticky note and folded it into my pocket, I wasn't committed,or so I thought, to making it a poetic priority.

The lines came to me, not quite connected, but barely separated, and when I got home I typed them out, massaged the order a little bit, eliminated the super superfluous, and accepted the result as not exactly my style, but tight enough to warrant running it up the flagpole to see if it attracted any flak or admiration. The gentleman who suggested the tongue twisting phrase, "cathartic value action quotient", read the poem and told me it encouraged him to write, because even though he doesn't consider himself a writer reading my poem convinced him that he could at least do as well, if not better. Love, set, match. 

Live feedback, unless you play electric guitar, is a great gauge for the efficacy, the efficiency, and the eventual value of our writing as a means of communication. When David Bowie's character in the song, "Changes" looks out the window and says, "I could do better than that," we have the seminal moment of creative genius encapsulated in a single phrase. "You can do better" can be the stroke that just clears the net of your internal resistance and gets you into the game. The ball literally is in your court, it's time to make some racket of your own and smash it down the line. You'd be doing a service to us all.