Saturday, October 25, 2008

Verse & Adversity

As a manly man & writer of free verse, I'm unconcerned with how my poems scan on the whole. However, as standard practice, I'll don my work clothes now & again, button up the oil-stained shirt with my name in script above the pocket & go line to line, checking meter in order to understand the rhythm & to create perhaps more interesting patterns.

I should probably do this more often, but it's understandable why I don't. Years ago, performing routine scansion on a parody of Yeats ("Leda & the Sun," which appeared in the now defunct Great Midwestern Journal) I suffered an extremely painful stress fracture. My foot, broken in two places, but mostly in iambic pentameter, required a clunky boot. Something new from Kenneth Cole? I also needed a cane, which--to put a positive spin on otherwise regrettable circumstances--helped me solve the riddle of the Sphinx. By the way, great punchline, Sophocles!

Once while composing a crown of sonnets, I tore ligaments in my pinkie. Initially, I thought it a minor injury & treated it as such with ice & ibuprofen. However, when the area around the lower knuckle remained sore & swollen long after the publication of "Part of the Problem" (New Zoo Poetry Review), I consulted a prosody specialist, who suggested mythosurgery, with the caveat that the fateful finger would never completely heal.

To this day, though not quite the proverbial sore thumb, my pinkie juts slightly outward & sidewise, as if I were forever having tea & crumpets with the Queen. It's like a string around my finger to remind me of the toil & trouble, times two, that went into the making of this crown.

To laundry-list a few other ailments, I scratched my cornea while completing "Blind Spot" (Georgetown Review), suffered whiplash during "Washington Crossing the Delaware" (Swink), dislocated a finger via a hard enjambment in "Here's How" (ABZ Review), developed hypertension, which had something to do with "Scenes from a Sonata" (Hunger Mountain), aggravated allergies while researching "Night at the Improv, C. 1600" (Segue) & broke my little toe when I fell down the stairs proofing "Ars Poetica" (DMQ Review).

Too often, the general public envisions poets as innately frail, sickly creatures who bemoan their existence for lack of love or who wax poetic over the imcomprehensible beauty of a petunia. But that's backward. It's not that poets are weak by nature, but rather, that poetry is a deceptively dangerous field, beset with infinite risks. Prolonged practice of this sullen craft eventually erodes the poets' health until they can barely lift their quivering quills, so to speak--which is to say nothing of the emotional toll, though, in retrospect, maybe I should have.


Riley said...

Damn, you have been busy. I think the catalog of your injuries is longer than your oeuvre! Now *there* is a killer hangman word. But your pain is our gain, so thanks!

Matt Morris said...

Longer than my oeuvre? Don't book on it! You might not think so, but except when lying around the house, I keep my oeuvre bound because it's a freaking monster. Check it out: