Daily Archives: August 16, 2003

On Education

If you were to ask me, say, how to make it in the Music business, what you needed to know and where you needed to be seen, heard or known, I could probably give you a pretty intelligent answer. Likewise, if you needed advice regarding a career in information technology, although my training there is mostly on-the-job and catch-as-catch-can, I have enough of a formal foundation there to be of some use.

But with writing, and Poetry, being completely self-taught as I am, I feel at a great loss. Sure, I deconstructed Poetry in high school (20 years ago now), and could blunder through the basics of theme, presentation, person and character. But I’ve never had the advantage of a complete college education in English, say, or the plus of a BFA or BA that seems to form the underlying knowledge base of a “real” poet. Maybe that’s a misperception on my part. After all, I’ve been writing Poetry for almost 30 years now, 12 of those years pretty immersed in self-study and volume production. So I’ve learned SOME things. But it’s like that last year of a four year degree in any “artistic” field – that’s when you learn how to present yourself, how to organize a collection, how to put together a resume, etc. Up until that point, you’re just working the mechanics of it, learning the language.

So where does one go from here? How do you know when your work is good enough to submit for publication? I mean, there has to be a certain point where you “know”, regardless of whatever feedback you may receive from friends and family, that what you can do is either schlock, average, typical, pretty good, great or genius. Whose opinion do you trust?

Maybe I’m just stuck. I don’t know.

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for Robert Leroy Litzenberg (1928-1993)

My father was a Gemini.
To some that may serve or suffice
to explain him; and to deny
it as a factor is a lie.

For those signed twins are often twice
as hard to know or understand
compared to more singular signs,
and often this polarized land
leaves surefoots, like us Goats, unmanned —
that fate could have well been mine.

For we often failed to see things
eye to eye; his moods were fickle,
and lead to hot shouts and fist swings
then quickly bounced back, on cool springs.

I wouldn’t have bet a nickel
On the way he’d take awful news.

Sometimes it was good to be gone
or failing that, sickly and wan;
Either way, you’d end with a bruise
or a sore rear end to sit on.

But despite his faults (he had them)
and the years I hated his guts,
I realized he wasn’t dim;
so after school I worked for him,
tho’ that might seem to some quite nuts.

Because I’d never heard him lie,
or hold another man’s beliefs;
and not a single year went by
when he didn’t work hard, and try
to give us a chance for less grief
than he’d had growing to a man.

Of all the things he gave to me
so few are more than grains of sand,
or memories of a quick backhand,
except for his integrity.

03 SEP 2003

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How clear the lens of retrospect
illuminates the distant past,
and brings in focus now, so fast,
foolish acts we’d rather neglect.

It is not always a kindness,
this sharpness of review;
one can easily misconstrue
an earlier bliss as blindness,

and waste so much precious time now
justifying a lack of sense
or imagining a defense,
forgetting not just when, but how

we came to learn from our mistakes.
What we are is what resulted;
and each time the fragile heart breaks,
future selves are not consulted.

No wonder then, this glass is so clear;
its academic and dry glare
sees history as cold and bare,
and stumbles forward, its eyes rear.

16 AUG 2003

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