Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Poem About a Poet by Anne Whitehouse

I have a superb offering for you today: a poem by Anne Whitehouse. This poem is included in Anne's new poetry collection, Blessings and Curses (Poetic Matrix Press). And, appropriately for this blog's purposes, it's a poem inspired by a writing workshop. My deep thanks to Anne for the gift of permission to republish this piece.


He was not good or kind,
but he was memorable.
He was the Poet,
and we the disciples
each week seeking
the benefit of his insight
as we sat around the table
listening politely
while he free-associated,
his random thoughts
drifting into aperçus
delivered in a high-pitched
nasal voice, the ash
hanging off his cigarette
until it dropped by itself.

At the interview
for admission to the class
I was in awe of him.
“These are yours?” he asked,
indicating my Fogg Poems.
In suspense I assented.
“Not bad,” he continued,
and paused. “But there are
so many of them.”
He sighed, leafing
through the seven pages
as if they constituted a burden.
“You’re in the class,” he said,
handing them back to me.

Believing he must be right,
I let him influence me.
From that day on
I dared not add another poem,
though possibilities still
occurred to me,
I ignored my ideas
until they went away.
At the time I didn’t know
he was writing his own series
of loosely-titled sonnets
hundreds of them
he would publish
in multiple versions
under two titles.


As winter melted into spring,
his mind grew unhinged.
One afternoon in class,
hearing workmen
making a racket
in the room below us,
he flew into a rage
and shouted at them
through the ceiling,
banging his chair
on the floor in retaliation.

Another time I saw him
shuffling across Mass. Ave.
in bedroom slippers
looking lost and dazed.

At his poetry reading at The Advocate,
he could barely speak.
The week before his collapse
he put aside student work
and, ignoring us,
closed his eyes and intoned,
“A bracelet of hair about the bone.”

“A bracelet of hair about the bone,”
he uttered the line again
and again, in a trance,
his voice growing fainter
until at last he grew silent.

We fled, leaving him
clutching his dead cigarette,
the ash scattered on the table,
staring into nothing.

(Bonus: Check out practicing writer John Vanderslice (Creating Van Gogh)'s review of Blessings and Curses for the Santa Fe Writers Project.)

1 comment:

AnnaB said...

wonderful poem.
I've worked for men like that...