I like to tell younger poets that everyone is born with 300 bad poems in them – Billy Collins
Poem number one – a limerick that rhymed Jane with fame –
was an impulsive effort, though its bewitching inspiration was appreciative
enough to brand a 16-year-old neck with its first hickey – sufficient incentive
to continue stumbling down the foot-strewn path prospective bards are fated
to follow. Number 47’s recounting of family milestones slavishly adhered
to an abab rhyme scheme as its main mode of poetic identification,
ignoring rhythm whenever its harridan head arose, as it often did. Poem 124
escaped rhyme’s linguistic handcuffs for an invented lyric form that freely
mingled iambic pentameter with trochaic octameter – to mixed results,
as you might imagine. By number 189 I’d introduced moody and dark into
my signature persona, a turn that produced verses mostly muddy and dank.
Number 216 embraced cryptic as the route to praise-worthy poeting.
What I conveyed in its seventeen stanzas is indecipherable to this day –
an accomplishment of sorts, though my writing workshop peers would
heartily disagree. With poem 277 – executed in free-verse imagery
reminiscent of Eliot and Williams – my chronicling of the romantic fantasies
of one J. Alvin Purfect, which began I have tasted your plums,
was more derivative than planned.
Finally, though, the bitter fruit of past doggerel has ripened into
sublime versification, producing a pièce de résistance worthy of
The Paris Review, or Poetry magazine, or, perhaps, Ploughshares.
And if by some kink in the cosmic fold the editors of these
esteemed publications fail to appreciate the metaphorical blending
of irony and allusion in this poetic outpouring, I will gracefully shift fealty
from Mr. Collins to Malcolm Gladwell, who contends 10,000 hours
of practice leads to mastery in one’s chosen field – leaving only
another 2,500 hours or so of writing to go.
Let’s see: There once was a belle from Poughkeepsie ….
Rick Blum has been writing humorous essays and poetry for more than 25 years during stints as a nightclub owner, high-tech manager, market research mogul and, most recently, old geezer. His writings have appeared in Humor Times, Boston Literary Magazine, and The Satirist, among others. He received first place in the 2014 Carlisle Poetry contest, and honorable mention in the 2015 Boston Globe Magazine Deflategate poetry challenge.