Since then I’ve worked exclusively in publishing, first for game companies, now in education. I also continue to write, study, and promote poetry. It’s my opinion that poetry used to belong to the people, until academics stole it. It’s high time to steal it back from them.
Every professional writer knows that while ideas are exciting, drafting is work. Which is to say, I had planned to finish the entire draft of this poem yesterday, but the childish creative side dragged its feet. (Frankly, it got panicky and began avoiding the issue.) Fortunately, my more adult editorial side has learned some tricks over the years, like saying, “Okay, you don’t have to get it all done at once. Let’s just get a few lines put together and sleep on them. We can finish those in the car on the way to work tomorrow.”
So I’m at the office now, and here’s the draft first stanza from the sonnet I promised John Cochrane for his wife. (See www.lestersmith.com/poetry for a history.)
The kids have left us. All the rooms upstairs
are empty of their noise. All that remains
are boxes in the attic—clothes, toy trains,
some picture books and dolls, old teddy bears.
As Judge John Hodgman is fond of pointing out, “Specificity is the soul of narrative.” And in poetry perhaps more than anywhere, description becomes representative, suggesting meaning in ways straightforward statement cannot. (If you don’t believe me, compare Shelley’s “Ozymandias” to his friend Horace Smith’s.)
So for the Valentine’s Day sonnet I’m preparing, based on John Cochrane’s thoughts about his marriage, each quatrain needs to provide details representative of its central idea. If I had more time, I’d interview John for details. But as an older guy who has faced and is facing the same, I’ll draw on my own experience. Here goes.
- as in heading out for their own futures
- as in leaving boxes of toys, books, and clothing in the attic or basement
- leaving handmade Christmas ornaments & other art projects
- moving away for careers
- some divorcing (pointing up the luck of our relationship)
- some dying
This quatrain needs to reflect on both of us aging, a delicate subject.
A couple of weeks ago, I offered a free, personalized Valentine’s Day sonnet for the first person who could “pique my interest.” My Georgian buddy John Cochrane responded with this intriguing premise:
Valentine’s Day poem from man to wife. At the stage of life when bodily frailities really start setting their teeth in, kids are pulling away, individuating, will be out of the house sooner now rather than later. Both parents’ circle of old friends dispersing in a widening gyre, no new friends being made to take those relationship slots. Money manageable but always tight. Still very much in love with each other, but a dwindling number of life’s major moments to look forward to. Hope this snags somewhere, even if only on your pants cuffs like a stickleburr.