Poetic Justice

Okay, I admit it, I like poetry.  Sue me.

When I was in school I was spoon fed the likes of Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Emily Dickenson, Robert Browing, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (interesting how they have the same surname, isn’t it?) Byron, Pepys, Chaucer, and, of course, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare.

It was well after high school, however, that I discovered the other poets and writers out there, the ones it seems my conservative Phoenix, AZ school district probably didn’t want the students to know about. The likes of Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs and Thompson fueled my young adult mind and filled me with wonder.  I remember my senior year English teacher, Mrs. Aarons was exactly the type of instructor who would have loved to give the seventeen year old Mike a copy of Naked Lunch or Howl and Other Poems, but I have a feeling that it could have cost her her job. That’s unfortunate.

Nevertheless, I did find Howl eventually and it changed my world view considerably.

l saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro stre at dawn looking for an angry fix, Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…

Sheer brilliance, isn’t it?  Of course the poem is much longer than that and I encourage everyone to read it. It may not be quite as shocking today as it was when originally published (the obscenity trial that surounded the poem was the subject of a pretty excellent 2010 film starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg), but it is no less moving than it ever was.

It was the brilliance of Howl that once made me want to write poetry.  “If I could write something like that,” I told myself, “There’d be no stopping me!”

Well, I found out that I can’t.

But… that’s okay. So, I’m not as brilliant as Allen Ginsberg. So what? Ginsberg was not as brilliant, some would argue, as Frost or Marlowe or Shakespeare, right?

Still, I continued to dabble with poetry here and there and still do on occasion.  The thing is, I generally think it sucks and almost never save any of it.  I was in a “band” for a short while with a buddy of mine when I was in my early twenties. I say “band” in quotes because it was really just us two guys and a drum machine. My pal Keith played guitar and sang. I tinkered with guitar and bass and keyboards. Not knowing how to actually play any of these instruments, I would primarily just try to hit the right notes and attempt to keep up. I did learn I was okay at programming beats into a drum machine and creating recording effects with the meager equipment we were using (a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder at the time).  I also wrote the majority of our lyrics.

Most of our songs were rather 90’s-centric, inspired by the popular music of the time that we were interested in.  So one sonmg was us trying to sound like The Cure (sure, they were 80’s but I loved them) while the next might be us trying to sound like the Spin Doctors and another was us trying to sound like Ministry, and so on. Really we didn’t sound like any of them (because they could, you know, play and we – or at least I – could not), but the influence is clearly there.

But I’m digressing yet again. The purpose of this particular post was to allow myself a chance to try to flex that poetry muscle just a little bit whil at the same time trying not to sound too much like a douche.


So I recently became interested in haiku, theJapanese poetic style that encompasses short poems of three lines, the first and third having five sounds (syllables in English0 and the second having seven. The results are usually some very quaint little non-rhyming snippets of poetry that are most often about nature-related topics. That’s not a hard and fast rule, however, they can be about anything. I’m sappy and romantic, why can’t they be about love and shit?

That moment when hearts
Flutter, beat, repeat; then stop.
For just an instant.

Pretty, right? Simple, quaint, lovely. I think so anyway.

Summertime blossoms
Simply cannot compare with
Your eyes or smile

Okay, so maybe it’s “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” stuff, but I’m sappy like that.

Haiku is really just one very simple form of poetry, however, and I’ve been wanting to write something far more substantial. I don’t know that I can, but I want to write a Howl. It probably isn’t going to happen.


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