Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Trash Chute

At some point long ago when I was younger, and very naive (now I'm older and still quite naive) I decided to try to get a poem published. What drove me to do it? Hoping to connect with someone, somewhere? Vanity, vanitas? Visions of glory? To be remembered somewhere, somehow as a poet? As an artist? Such foolishness we harbor in secret recesses... Well, I went and did it, and had to pay for the privilege too, by buying the book it would be published in, from what I'm sure is a thriving concern, a generic Poetry Anthology organisation, which preys on the gullible, holding out the farcical phrase in their advertising:"Become a published poet", or something to that effect.
When the book arrived, it did not take long to realize that I'd been had. Badly had. I soon re-named it the "Vogon" Poetry Anthology. (In case you weren't familiar with Vogons, they appear in Douglas Adams' marvellous story "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Vogons were known for inflicting horrifying intellectual pain upon their torture victims by reading excruciatingly bad poetry to them while they were strapped to a chair and could not escape. Thank you Douglas Adams, for all the fish!) Now I don't mean to insult anyone, or belittle anybody, but, as Robert Pirsig so eloquently explained in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", we do have an innate sense of quality, which lets us, well, some of us, discern what constitutes fine quality from poor quality. This innate sense of Quality is what allows us to recognize Shakespeare, Bukowski, Edward Abbey, Michelangelo, Fowles, Segovia, Jerry Garcia, and a few others, as masters of their various domains, producing masterworks which rise above the squalid and vast seas encircling the wasteland ("April is the cruelest month, breeding..." or "In the room the women come and go, Talking of Michelangelo") of much of human existence... The problem with the Vogon Poetry Anthology is that, like a prostitute will take any paying customer, publications like this will print anything, and call it a poetry, for a fee.

Just one example of a few lines of one of the multitude of poems in that obviously un-edited and indiscriminate publication :

"Why is my friend the robin sad today?
Because this year there has been a dearth
What caused the dearth?
Nearly all summer there has been a drought
Is my friend the robin sad today?
No, for today nimbostratus clouds are weeping
Why is my friend the robin happy today?
Because there is no longer a paucity of worms"
I admit, "Paucity" is a good word, but something about the weeping nimbostratus clouds and sad robins had me squirming and shouting, "Flee ! The Vogons are coming, the Vogons are coming!" Perhaps there is poetic justice sometimes in life after all is said and done, for the piece of writing which I sent to them to have published in the above pictured anthology (which contained upward of 3000 poems, getting up in the neighborhood of the number of American dead in Iraq, which are told of in another volume of Vogon poetry) was this one, which sums it up roundly :
The Trash Chute
Time here
Is measured
By falling bags of trash
Which swish and jostle and clank
Sending back faint echoes
Of their headlong flight
As they fall eleven floors
To thump
At last home
Among their own
In some cavernous dumpster
Where they lie
Briefly quivering
While I
Return to my room, my books
The jettisoned waste forgotten
My clock tells me nothing
By its endless circles
The trash chute tells me all

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