Blog, December 8–Rhina P. Espaillat

Notes on Contributors

Verse, Gainfully Employed

An item in this Monday’s local paper here in Newburyport cites a fundraising effort undertaken by students to assist a local charity during the holiday season. What the kids are doing is selling their services as aspiring young poets to create “gift poems” that purchasers may order for people on their gift list, by giving the poets the name of each recipient, and a few pertinent facts about him or her. The gift poem may amuse, praise, roast (mildly) or otherwise engage, may be requested in form or free verse, and will cost a few dollars.

 

That enterprising approach to what we do will undoubtedly raise eyebrows among the strict believers in “art for art’s sake,” and we can all understand that, but let me be devil’s advocate for a moment. Granted that genuine poetry can’t be bought or sold, and will not be ordered to appear for any sum, isn’t verse–the craft on which poetry depends, as draughtsmanship is the craft behind the visual arts–more modestly easygoing and less of a diva? I remember being taught the craft by writing birthday and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day “poems” that were, of course, no such thing, but exercises designed to give pleasure just because they were written, not through their artistry, which was skimpy if it existed at all. They were good practice, though, and they served to inculcate the notion–which I believe to this day–that poetry is always, whatever else it may be, a form of communication between human beings.

 

Maybe “occasional poems,” as those gift exercises are called, are not such a terrible idea after all, provided they don’t take themselves too seriously and mistake themselves for the real thing. They may not be kept or reread for literary reasons, but they will be treasured for human ones. More important still, they will remind the writer that real poems–if we’re lucky and those ever show up–will also be meant for readers in addition to their authors, and will need to know how to convey something that will bear sharing.

 

Trackbacks

  1. […] An item in this Monday’s local paper here in Newburyport cites a fundraising effort undertaken by students to assist a local charity during the holiday season. What the kids are doing is selling their services as aspiring young poets to create “gift poems” that purchasers may order for people on their gift list, by giving the poets the name of each recipient, and a few pertinent facts about him or her. The gift poem may amuse, praise, roast (mildly) or otherwise engage, may be requested in form or free verse, and will cost a few dollars. More… […]