Of Poets and Other Things

A number of years ago, I sat in on a university class run by an insignificant poet posing as a hippie. He was insignificant despite the fact that he was widely published. His insignificance arose not from the quality of his poems, which was negligible at best, but from his assumed superiority. Unfortunately, his superiority was not born of original talent and exuberance, as was Whitman�s, but was the result, rather, of a hefty monthly paycheck.

Sitting on folded legs atop his desk, it seemed the poet�s main purpose was to convince the young men and women in his class that his idea of poetry was not only the idea they should follow, but the only idea worth following. Some of the students had, through eagerness or simplicity, already bought into the idea; others heeded their instinct and remained skeptical. This was especially evident when their turn came to read from work they had composed for the class, some of which was refreshing in its defiance. The poet, however, in his arrogant, small-minded stupidity, deflected each offering, calmly pointing out what he called �meaningless empty phrases� or a �lack of poetic tension.� I found this amusing, because the tension in the room was enough to make an ordinary person sweat.

After the readings had run their course and each student�s balloon had been summarily popped, the poet read from his own work in a pompous and patronizing style, uttering each word as if it had first been placed on a scale, only to find the instrument incapable of measuring such an awe-inspiring burden.

When it was all over, the students were visibly relieved. Outside, where the air was fresher and the world strikingly more real, one of the students, an emaciated young man with a sorrowful expression and a blond, feather-like goatee, asked me if I was planning to join the class. When I told him I wasn�t, he smiled and said, �Why not? Don�t you like poetry?� I looked at him and said, �I love poetry.� �Me, too,� the young man said. �Me, too.�

Without saying another word, he turned and walked away. A moment later, he stopped beneath an ancient gingko tree and gazed up at its bright yellow leaves. Then he sat down with his back against the trunk, opened his notebook, and began to write.

This essay first appeared in The Synergyst.

Note: Poems, Slightly Used, a growing collection of work first published in my blog, Recently Banned Literature, can be found here.

Available from Cosmopsis Books of San Francisco

Winter Poems
by William Michaelian

Winter Poems (click to view cover)

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
US $11.95; $8.95 at Cosmopsis Books
52 pages. 6x9. Paper.
Includes one drawing.
San Francisco, June 2007
Signed, numbered & illustrated copies

Winter Poems displays the skills and abilities of Mr. Michaelian at their most elemental level, at the bone. Wandering amidst a barren world, a world scraped bare, he plucks the full moon like fruit from the winter sky, goes mad and befriends a pack of hungry wolves, burns his poems to keep warm. He is a flake of snow, a frozen old man, a spider spinning winter webs. Spring is only a vague notion of a waiting vineyard, crocuses, and ten-thousand babies. The author is alone, musing, reflecting, at times participating. But not quite alone, for he brings the lucky reader along. I�ve been there, to this winter world, and I plan to go back.

                                                            � John Berbrich, Barbaric Yawp

Another Song I Know � Short Poems
by William Michaelian

Another Song I Know (click to view cover)

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
US $13.95; $10.95 at Cosmopsis Books
80 pages. 6x9. Paper.
Includes Author�s Note.
San Francisco, June 2007
Signed, numbered & illustrated copies

Another Song I Know is a delightful collection of brief, resilient poems. Reading them, one by one by one, is like taking a walk through our common everyday world and suddenly hearing what the poet hears: the leaves, a coffee cup, chairs � and yes, even people, singing their songs of wisdom, sweetness, and light.

                                                            � Tom Koontz, Barnwood poetry magazine

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

Main Page
Author�s Note
A Listening Thing
Among the Living
No Time to Cut My Hair
One Hand Clapping
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Collected Poems
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Armenian Translations
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Poetry, Notes & Marginalia:
Recently Banned Literature

Collected Poems by William Michaelian
A Larger Life
Monastery of Psalms
Friends (includes French translation)
Summer of Dreams
Is It His Coat?
The Boy Who Wrote Letters
Forty Days, Forty Nights
Papa�s Song (clam chowder blues)
The Pilgrim�s Way
A Christmas Wish
The Teacher
The Literary Awakening of America
The Healer
The Enigmatic Child
What Happened to God
Reading Tristram Shandy
A Prefix of Obscure Meaning
He Knows
My Only Friend
The World I Know
We Do Not Need a Poem
Three Short Poems
The More We Are Looking For
I Hear the Earth
What Will I Give You?
Great Minds Think Alike
The Age of Us All
I Met My Spirit
Claim Denied
Summer Days
Greek Peppers
Another Hard Day
James Joyce Singing
How Many Stones?
At the Armenian Home
The Peace Talks
The Eggs of March
Armenian Music
If Poems Were Days
Once Again I Lied
One Last Thing
Everywhere I Go
Up Here On the Hill
Winter View
What December Said to January
Winter Poems
Spring Haiku
How to Write a Poem, In Three Lessons
The Walls Have Ears
Why I Don�t Buy Grapes
To French Vanilla and All the Other Flavors
It Was
Early Morning Haiku
Someone�s Mother
Fall Questions
My Old Black Sport Coat
The Clerk and the Windmill
Roadside Distress, Part 2
Magical Realism (First Prize)
Caf� Poetry Night: Two Poems
Short Poem for Spring
Short Poem for Summer
I Find Him Eating Butterflies
For the Sister I Never Had
An Absurdist Play
The Second Act

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