When I was 15 years old, my high school Language Arts teacher (and let’s pause just a minute to wonder about the term language arts, shall we?) told his students that we could submit one new poem per day for an entire semester in order to earn extra credit. By the time I turned in my 25th extra credit poem, he begged me to stop: he just didn’t have it in him to do the extra work of responding to what were merely adolescent ravings… not on top of his regular work. In hindsight, I don’t blame him. Much.
In any event, whether he liked reading them or not, I liked writing them. So much so that I went on to earn first a B.A. in poetry from Northwestern University, then an M.A. in poetry from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, which were then among the most storied programs in the country. I note the pedigree here not to boast but to indicate, for me, how worthless it is, given that I no longer write poetry at all or (except on rare occasions) read it.
Once upon a time, though, it wasn’t worthless. I taught poetry for a time, largely at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. I had my share of publications and did my share of readings; those were fun. And I served as the poetry editor of Barrelhouse magazine, too, which was pretty darn cool for a good couple of years.
And I suppose it’s also true that having learned to be precise and careful with language continues to be useful. At least I hope it is. I spent a damn long time trying to master it. (It’s impossible. One does what one can.)
In any event: may these few poems stand in for a life and a craft I have long let go of… and about which only memories remain.