Virtually all of my professional life I’ve been writing for publication -- prose for news and public affairs broadcasting, and technical features for some 16 magazines. My success rate for these media was high, so many years ago I decided to take a crack at a poem. I sent it off to one magazine of high repute and it was accepted. As a matter of fact, it was featured along with a photo on cover two of that issue.
Wow, writing and publishing poetry sure is easy, or so I thought then. Still inflated with puffery for that episode, I went back to prose. But a couple of years ago, I decided to write some more poetry. After all, how hard could it be?
I wrote some romantic, some whimsical, some rhyming metric verse, some free verse, and sent them off willy-nilly to every print and online magazine that had open submissions. I couldn’t believe how popular I was going to be in my newly-resurrected medium.
Dozens of submissions later, I was underwhelmed by the few responses that came back. It took months for most of them, and nobody wanted my poetry. Their dismissals were curt but polite with one unifying theme, “Nice try, but we don’t want it.”
Undaunted by this unrewarded period, I decided to send my five best poems to a well-known publisher. Exactly one week later to the day, a personal response was in my email. Eager to learn how many of my poems would finally see the light of day, I read his eloquent reply. I don’t actually recall the exact wording, but I can easily paraphrase its synopsis: “No.”
These poems were good, or so I thought. They were heartfelt, visual, and expressive. Since I don’t take defeat very well, my mischievous side began to erupt. In a pique of combative contempt I decided that if I couldn’t get good poetry published, then how about bad poetry? My first step was to see how convincing a poem could be that was written in only five minutes. It was terrible, it was meaningless, but it was short, and it was called Obfuscated Jabberwocky; to wit:
Timber crested, the phantom seeks its paisley patch,
Shrill and sleek its members gleam, caressed by wind and time.
Dark chambers daunt the ravishing tide
While crimson seeps across the torrid path.
Voices stilled now murmur
As closure dims eternal light.
I sent this horrid mélange to only one magazine, and they published it!
I may be one of those folks who claim they just don’t understand poetry. They don’t get it. I’ll have to admit that at some readings, after the poet finishes his or her presentation and other attendees smile and nod with mutual approval, I’m slumped in my chair thinking “What the…?” But then another poet reads, and I think “Now that’s nice.” All said, I have to admit I’ve heard good poetry. I only wish I had written it.