Reason and Rhyme

When I was a young writer, I wrote hundreds of poems and even managed to publish a few. The first writing I ever published was a poem in the legendary Santa Cruz free weekly SUNDAZ, circa 1972, when I was twenty-three, for which the editor treated me to lunch, a burrito as I recall.

I remember I was noodling around on the piano in the commune where I lived with seven other young people when someone knocked on the door and one of my housemates admitted a bearded fellow a few years older than I, none other than the Editor-in-Chief of SUNDAZ.

Having located me from the return address on my submission, he fervently shook my hand and said, “I love your poem that clicking sound! More. More. Bring me more.”

I was in a state of joyful amazement for weeks and did eventually publish another poem and two short stories in SUNDAZ, my first published poem also appearing in an anthology of Santa Cruz poets entitled The The. Here is that clicking sound?

that clicking sound?

we have a hundred men downstairs

each employed

in some

part of the process;


the backs

of crickets


When I was thirty, having accrued hundreds of rejection slips and a few handwritten rejection letters for my poetry, I got out my file containing the several hundred poems I’d written, read the lot, and decided all but a dozen were failed attempts at writing the same poem, a humorously ironic (sort of) complaint. I was so dismayed by this discovery I burned all but a few of the poems and felt hugely relieved to be shed of that psychic weight.

From that day on poems rarely came to me, and over the ensuing decades I only wrote a handful of poems I felt were worth keeping. Then a curious thing happened. About ten years ago, I wrote a novel in which four of the characters are cracking good poets. These men and women write poems with ease, so I thought I’d try writing poems again. However, poems would not come to me, only to characters in my novels and stories.

In the several books I’ve written since, poets appear now and then, and I’m ever amazed by the marvelous (to me) poems they write. In the novel I’m currently rewriting, the sequel to Good With Dogs and Cats, the main character Healing Weintraub takes up writing poems, and his words flow artesian.

Most recently I reworked a chapter in which Healing quotes lines from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind

 and therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind.

Nor hath love’s mind of any judgment taste;

wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste:

And therefore is love said to be a child,

because in choice he is so oft beguiled.

Later on in that same chapter, Healing writes a bit of rhyming doggerel inspired by his sister’s renaissance.

 The attic is full of things

we’ve fooled ourselves into keeping.

Food for ghosts who came to stay

and haunt us while we’re sleeping.

Through God’s good grace one lucky day

that useless junk gets thrown away,

and ghosts depart, and now we hear

for joy the angels weeping!


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