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The Un-Poet

February 18, 2010

Despite an abiding appreciation for poetry, I am not a Poet. The day I was informed thus will be forever ingrained in my memory. It was a Tuesday morning, sophomore year, Professor Graham’s Creative Writing class at Lynchburg College. Professor Graham looked at me with those kind, albeit somewhat patronizing eyes, behind which lay all the knowledge and promise of his own poetry-novella (I’m afraid I don’t remember the name), and said, “Well, we all know that you’re not a poet.”

I’m not? I remember thinking. But I write poetry. And I…write. Period. And my poems have been published—you know, the one about roadkill, and the other one about grandma being dead. Doesn’t that mean I’m a poet? Some of my confusion must have shown on my face, even though I was smiling and nodding benignly at the paper in my hand, because he continued, “You are a PROSE writer.”

Ah. Prose. Fabulous. Prose sounded so ordinary. So…blah-se. I didn’t want to be a prose writer. I wanted to be a Poet. Poets were full of suppressed passions and mad yearnings, had bad habits and nervous tics. They laid themselves bare with indecipherable code that plagued the best of minds for ages. For all anyone really knew, they could be speaking in utter nonsense. They wore billowy pirate blouses and funky sandals, and forgot simple hygiene when in the throes of genius. That’s what I wanted, more than anything.

But Professor Graham was correct: I am not a poet, if for no other reasons than I quite appreciate my daily shower and I find it nearly impossible to develop any truly bad habits. And I’m a bit short for billowy blouses.

Before I arrived at this inevitable conclusion, though, I tried really, really hard to be a Poet. I wrote poems about anything, and everything, as the roadkill example testifies. I even wrote about my teenage yearning to be a Pink Lady. Remember the Pink Ladies? They had the pink jackets, of course, that proclaimed them the property of those leather-wielding T-Birds. They had the ciggies, and the stilettos, and that attitude that said I-know-exactly-what-you-think-of-me-and-I-don’t-care. So I wrote a poem about their coolness.

This was written when pleather was cool. I know, because I actually owned a pair of pleather pants. That pair of pleather pants remained hopefully tucked in the back of my closet for a very long time after they were no longer cool, just in case they became cool once more. They’re there no longer, abandoned due to sweat issues and the sake of my misplaced pride, finally located at long last.

This was written when I had an actual thing for John Travolta, in all his glory. (I also wanted to be “Wunna Woman” and marry Kenny Rogers at one time, but we won’t go there today. Underroos are a curious, freeing thing.)

This is a testament to my unadulterated badness. Please don’t pee yourself.


I dream, at night, of a cool rider

(hell on wheels, a smooth operator) who

Purrs to a stop at the junction of Waking and Not.

Braces himself on black-leathered legs and asks

                wanna ride

Voice filled with darkness and desire and


Grip the wide leather seat with thighs that tremble and

                yesss, I wanna ride.


Blacktop dies beneath wheels that eat the night

Wind rushes in my ears, obscures all sound

Save the panicked pounding of my heart.


Smell of diesel stings my eyes,

Blurs with salty drapes

The one before me…

                hold on tight.


Hide my face and shield my soul in the strength

To which I cling, arms clenched tightly

So tightly…I ache.


Smell the leather for a moment, breathe

Deep…don’t forget to


Inhale the essence for remembrance and then



9 Comments leave one →
  1. Felecia permalink
    February 18, 2010 10:18 am

    that’s a fun poem(prose?), i am not sure of the difference… anyhow I enjoyed reading it. 🙂

  2. February 18, 2010 11:00 am

    Too late! I’m peeing. I’m laughing. I’m laughing so hard. This is fabulous Lori. The whole post! Oh my gosh!

    You forgot to finish your poem.

    Awake! Yanked awake as you breathe
    Smell! Oh the smell…..
    As you yell……
    Your leg is burnt……drat the pleather.
    You should have worn leather……….

  3. February 18, 2010 4:28 pm

    Oh.My.Heck!!! Thanks for the pee warning!
    I was giggling so hard my hubby asked what was going on, so I read it to him. He says we can’t be friends anymore.
    Just Kidding.
    We both got a good laugh. And I love how Rachel finished it.

    PS- Wonder woman underroos? I had them too! Now we’re just stuck with the Wonder-bra! Not so freeing.

  4. February 19, 2010 1:48 am

    Did you ever practice dressing up like Olivia Newton-John (make-up, hair, leopard print shirt, tight leggings and 4-inch heels with a pink scarf around your neck) and singing “You Better Shape Up” while pretending to smoke those candy cigarettes that were wrapped just right so that when you blew on them a little puff of smoke would shoot out the front end?

    Um… (*nervous sideways glance*) me either.

    AWESOME poem, you billowy-bloused poet!

  5. February 19, 2010 9:28 am

    Oh, my gosh! Are you talking about Loren Graham? If so, the book is entitled MOSE, and it is a touch of brilliance, really. Well, he is brilliant. I studied under him for several semesters at Hollins. He workshops were pretty amazing. In 2008, he was awarded a $25,000 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. After Hollins, he ventured to Carroll College in Montana and continues to grow their Creative Writing program there. He’s working on completing his second manuscript, and I cannot wait to read it! I like your poem, btw. It helps us as artists not to take ourselves so seriously all the time. Like my poems inspired by Gertrude Stein! Loved this post…lots.

  6. Lori permalink*
    February 19, 2010 2:21 pm

    Felecia–thanks for stopping by 🙂 Basically, poetry is verse (although it can take sooo many forms) and prose is “ordinary” writing, without any kind of metrical pattern. (Although I wouldn’t necessarily classify great writing as “ordinary”…)

    Rachel–there you go again. Cracking me up. What an ending.

    Nat–Aw, man! Tell your husband I was just kidding. REALLY. I want nothing to do with stilettos or T-Birds, and I don’t secretly croon “Those Su-hummmmmmer- Niiiiiights” in the shower. Ever.

    Gerb–Umm. No? And I didn’t have a kiddie pool in the backyard that I trailed forlorn fingertips in, either…

    Dang soundtrack is going on, now.

    Michele–YES!!! He was amazing. I’m making a little fun here, but he was seriously fantastic. And Mose, that’s IT! Thank you. It was bugging me that I couldn’t think of the name. I took every class I could with him. He was, in all seriousness, the impetus I needed to move from writing some mediocre poetry to better-than-average prose. I needed someone to tell me that it just wasn’t for me, you know? (Particularly in light of Joe Schuppe, whom I had several classes with, and was utterly brilliant.) Tough love. Thanks for the update–I had wondered whatever happened to him. Let me know when he has that 2nd manuscript out.

    And you are right–that was the point of this post–not to take ourselves so seriously. I was ready for the ridicule. 😉

  7. February 20, 2010 3:20 pm

    😀 – Great post! I’m officially jealous.

    I think I need to take some writing classes. I did take one once; got the first perfect score the instructor of 25 years ever gave! 😀 (It know it’s shocking, but it REALLY IS TRUE. I sort of cherish and grovel over that experience 🙂 Obviously… one generals Creative Writing class just isn’t enough!

    BTY – What’s a “Prose” writer? LOL What ever it is, I’m sure from the writing that you do, that I want to be one!!! One day I will floor the world and become a “Prose” writer like you, Lori! ;D

  8. February 21, 2010 10:05 am

    i meant to comment days ago…but had to take care of some emergency poopy diaper or something.

    i am just glad i wear my depends most days. comes in handy for those posts that cause accidents of that nature.

    i have to disagree. if you even write just one poem you are a poet. and you did. so you are. 🙂 there you have it.

  9. Anaise permalink
    February 22, 2010 8:21 am

    i don’t care that the man is a genius, he’s just mean . . . or I guess he’s kind if he gave you impetus to find your real voice.

    I don’t know.

    Is it the mood I’m in? I’m just annoyed by the dream-busting folk of the world.

    Poetry and motorcycles are cool!

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