0281 A Mid-Atlantic Voice
Poem by Michael Shepherd
It's said in Indian circles that the years of retirement
are the time when men choose the occupation
of their next life. So I'm sitting here on a fine Sunday
in a quiet London suburb, the very day when the geraniums
have decided that they and the sun are into
a long-term relationship, sitting wondering whether
I'd like to be an American poet next time around.
It seems on the surface very tempting:
for economic survival, teaching creative writing
in a medium-profile college where I guess
they get on well with their students
and discuss in a class of about twenty-one
Pamela Anderson's implants and their removal
in an urbane, witty, jokes-and-depth way;
they live with a happy family in a happy house
and rejoice - as poets, unacknowledged legislators of mankind -
in the safety, the relaxed glory, of being typical Americans yet
with full liberal license nay duty to criticise or reject or even fulminate against the American Way of Life.
They write as they live, a relaxed, underplayed
(you should be reading this at that unhurried pace)
free verse, (short lines if as Levine claims,
his cat sits there and claws him if the line goes on too far,
otherwise about four-five slight stresses to a line)
as appropriate and becoming for a writer of sincerity and integrity;
while under their urbane but sharp observation of natural detail
and human fallibility and institutional absurdity and the life
of the less fortunate, strong emotions are at play,
expressed with a wry, broad-minded and life-affirming balance.
They are at ease with themselves, and us.
They may run to rhyme for comic and children's verse
but otherwise have surrendered the grand statement that clunk-clicks
like a doorlock, with perfect rhyme and 'meter'; however
that doesn't mean you can't easily tease from the occasional reference
that they've read the greats. In depth. In fact they're radio-sharp
on every event, every cultural reference, and their relaxed eye
and mind and decent heart mixes family, brand names, politics
and the afore-inspected Pamela Anderson
to make poems which aim at the very heart of America
in a very independent American way; in fact you could say
although of course I'm not the one to say this,
that they are the real conscience of America,
the heartland of the united state of mind, and with what -
if they used the phrase, 'feelgood factor' -
they would play with, using all the subtleties
of a fly-fisherman in the river of thought.
Even their reviews are enviable: 'a wildly refreshing,
necessary poet'; 'writes with an honest man's happy discontent';
'everything is touched by his hand'. They are appreciated.
They are that blessed species of human being - useful. And loved.
Yes, it's tempting to put in an order to the drive-by
at the cemetery gates
for a new life as American poet. Were it not
that we who have lived into a wariness of metaphysical speculation
must balance in the world of the unproven
the consideration that time-lapse between embodiments
may make all this a fruitless dream in a hideous world
of swords, not ploughshares; guns, not pens.
And that - Walt, Jack, Pablo, Hank -
would be another ball-game.
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