Guy Roads

Atomic Blueprint

The molecules arrange themselves 
into human shapes

according to the elements of fate

in nuanced forms of expression
and blunt atomic reactions

colored by happiness and suffering
in the not so visible spectrum.

This all takes place
at the outer heart of inner space

where worlds collide and lovers lay waste

to the compound structures of fable

seated at the periodic table

with all creation’s carnal relations

jealous of eternity 

and her sex 

and her power

and her appetite for death

at the banquet of experience

where the earth spins naked

and the moon blows kisses

and the sun winks knowingly

and the stars dare us to be
more than what we see

on this inexplicable journey.

The Poetry Racket

A few nights ago I attended my first poetry reading.  ( I’m 67)  It was sponsored by a local poetry organization whose website I’d just discovered.  I liked their mission statement.  I knew nothing about the featured poets or the bar downtown where it was taking place, but after a little internet sleuthing it seemed like it might be the right opportunity to meet other poets and share a few poems during the open mic.

I was hesitant, but it was something I felt like I had to do after running alone in my own private poetry marathon for years.

Almost a dozen people attended, (mostly scruffy old men) and it was a little weird trying to read poetry in the backroom of a bar next to the biffy, with a shitty microphone, no mic stand, no podium, poor acoustics, and lots of boisterous noise competing from the crowd of beer drinkers in the next room.

But I’m glad I did it.  Winter’s coming, and I don’t think I’ll be driving into the city after dark again until spring.

I’m trying to be honest with myself.  What’s my motivation for riding through the valley of the shadow of poetry?  Is it the desire for public approval?  Love in the form of recognition?  Personal accomplishment at an affordable price?  Camaraderie?

I’ve worked hard to get my ego out of the way and write poems that are both cathartic and artistically satisfying.  I like exploring ideas, crossing internal boundaries, self discovery, becoming more expressive, less emotionally constipated.

When I first started charging down this road I was so naive.  I had just crawled out of a factory.  I thought poetry would connect me to a better class of people, enlightened rogues and mystics, explorers, brothers, sisters, bird men and women, a contemplative tribe of confidants and sun dancers celebrating life.  What a fool I was.

I’ve seen the stacks of unwanted chapbooks gathering dust in bookstore wicker baskets.  I’ve been patronized by academics, ivory tower sentries, and effete personalities hiding in their literary rabbit holes at credentialed membership clubs.

Not long ago I was reading some essays by Robert Bly, Wildness & Domesticity.  He spoke disparagingly about much modern poetry, about its emptiness, its deadness, how it took a wrong turn years ago.  He told a story about his friend James Wright being snubbed at a U of M  English faculty party for complimenting Walt Whitman.  WTF?

Yesterday I veered onto The Loft’s website.  They have many resources for aspiring writers.  I can get personalized help for one whole year while trying to get a book published at the low, low price of $7600.  Astonishing!

How many chapbooks would I need to sell to break even on that venture?  It sounds like a great vanity project for anyone with a lot of extra money to burn.

And so I continue to ride through the valley of the shadow of poetry, “bloody, but unbowed” as Invictus said.

I’ve had some poems published in various print and electronic magazines.  There were a few where I had to pay for the privilege of reading my own poems. 

A year ago I read a poem on Rattle.  It was an outstanding confessional poem by a dead author who confided how it took him 40 years to make 15 dollars for his troubles.  “Why" by Robert Funge.

A couple of months ago I submitted poems to an online publication.  I received no acceptance or rejection response, then I sent a query letter.  Crickets.

Maybe real poetry has and always will exist only on the margins of society where touched individuals from all walks of life talk in crazy fractured heart bursts attempting to convey whatever divine message streams in through the broken windows of their psyches.

Maybe that’s what poetry is, a lonely lifelong marathon of men and women who belong to no tribe but their own.  Consider the old Chinese poets who walked into the mountains and disappeared in the clouds. (Hello Gary Snyder!)

Poetry is an ancient art, as old as any.  You’d think that with all the billions being spent on endowments, museums, institutes, public parks, commemorative statues, etc. that some visionary philanthropist would have thought to construct a dedicated poetry pavilion in a city park or attach a small quiet annex to some public building in a central location where poets could easily have readings, share, discuss, and hear themselves think above the din. Perhaps I’m still a fool.

Guy Roads

November 12th, 2022

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