One of the most enjoyable aspects of publishing a first book of poetry is–what else?–readers, but less obviously, it’s readers’ reactions to poems.
Here’s irony. Reading a lot about poetry, I often come across comments from experts, critics, and even other poets, spreading rumors like, “When writing poetry, you should never write about nature because it’s hackneyed. And certainly not love. Too Hallmark. And dogs? You must be crazy. Death? Only if you want to send your readers running while waving their arms over how depressing a poet you are.”
Yeah. Something to that effect. And then, just when I begin to second guess my work, readers of my book will tell me some of their favorite poems from are ones about nature, love, death, and DOGS.
The moral of this story is clear. As a poet, you write what you want to write. If it moves you or warms up your Muse’s harp strings, play it loud and proud! The naysayers apparently haven’t read Ecclesiastes about nothing being new under the sun. The secret is taking what’s always been there and finding personal magic in it. If it’s how the sun rays hit the boulders and cast their shadows, so be it.
Here’s a poem with strange inspiration, a combination of quotidian and quirky. It notes the way my dog always leaves a single nugget of dog food in his bowl each morning. It’s from my book, The Indifferent World, and it breaks the experts’ rules. So don’t tell the poetry police, will you?
by Ken Craft
Each morning he rises and bows
before me–parable of humility,
maw yawning, paws splaying.
The hollow rattle of dry meal
raining on his aluminum bowl
pops his ears. Every day,
novelty in the ritual of repetition;
every day, the Pavlovian ear perk.
Like heartbeats and bad breath,
autonomous tail and tongue.
Waiting for me
to move, he approaches the orb
demurely, noses in, crunches the bland
and the brown. That lovable greed.
Those stained, pacifist teeth.
He feeds, license and rabies tag
keeping time at bowl’s edge. And always,
in the end, one dry kibble
is left in a bowl cirrus-streaked
with spit: his offering
to the food gods, his prayer
answered each miraculous day.
— from The Indifferent World by Ken Craft, copyright 2016, Future Cycle Press