Stupid Questions


In the education world, the saying goes, there are no stupid questions. But in the big-boy world, the expression has deep roots. One place where it is most prevalent is sports, where breathless victors, still caught up in the power and the glory of their heart-stopping wins, often find a mic thrust into their faces with the question (from a supposedly college-educated sports journalist), “How do you feel right now?”

Stupid question. And I long to hear the athlete who replies, “Horrible. This is the worst feeling I’ve ever endured. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to the locker room for a good cry.”

But no.

In the writing world we have stupid questions, too.  How often are established writers drilled with stock questions begging stock answers? Too often. Here are a few of them, along with answers we might appreciate, if only the interviewed grew weary enough to wax playful:

Q: Where do your ideas come from?

A: Aisle 7, bottom shelf, Wal-Mart automotive department. They’re made in China, my ideas.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as hors d’oeuvres, salad, main course, and, if need be dessert. On a Friday night when all weekend’s breaking loose.

Q: Where do you write?

A: Where I’m sitting at any given moment. Often a chair. Cliché, I realize. Do you need the brand and model, in case you want to add inspiration to cart?

Q: Who do you read?

A: Poets. To steal ideas.

Q: But who are the great poets?

A: Your list is as good as mine. Pay no attention to those poets behind the curtain. Words to live by.

Q: What do you recommend to someone just getting into the poetry-writing business?

A: Turn back, oh man. No. Really. I recommend that you do not read any poets, classical or contemporary, and, whatever you do, don’t write every day. Or what you know. Or to show vs. tell. Poison to writers, all of it.

Q: Do you make a living as a published poet?

A: My God. Like Scott and Zelda before the crash. Have you never seen drunk poets dancing in public fountains? They’re in damn near every city in Europe. Also Des Moines.

Q: Do you believe in MFAs?

A: Would they disappear if I didn’t? Me, I am letterless, as was the case in high school, where the quarterback got all the girls.

Q: Is poetry dead?

A: Why do you think zombies are so popular now? Read Poetry and Rattle, why don’t you.

Q: If I had to subscribe to one poetry magazine, which one would it be?

A: The American Conservative. For erasure poetry.

Q: Is there any question I didn’t ask that I should have?

A: Don’t mock me. And thank you.




    • Possibilities (there are no sure questions, and even fewer sure answers, as you’re about to see):

      1. If not this, then what?

      2. Why?

      3. What’s the frequency?

      4. Where do good questions go in the fall?

      5. And the classic, still unanswered: Where’s the beef?

      Liked by 1 person

      • i would say the potential for difference exists & strong misprision. However the poet may have a question they ask themselves which they then answer as satisfactorily as they can. Blake spent 19 years looking into “the sleep of Ulro and of the passage through Eternal Death and of the awaking to Eternal Life” and claims “Every word and every letter is studied and put into its fit place” which suggests he didn’t want to be misunderstood. Bohm says something to the effect of only strong questions elicit strong answers.
        In short i don’t rhink any question “stupid ” if it is asked earnestly.



    All the good questions have been asked.
    Am I my brother’s keeper?
    Are you my pork chop?
    What’s a guy gotta do to get a drink around here?

    I’ve been dreaming about my brother,
    who lived on Crete. I dragged him out of the surf,
    dead drunk, 150-pound carp, but hairier
    & muttering every pariah’s secret,
    “I’m a creep. I’m a creep.”

    Do dreams begin responsibilities?
    Can you sing “Frere Jacques,
    Frere Jacques, dormez vous?”
    A squalid rented room,
    the furniture shrouded in wax paper.
    Who’s to blame? A stupid question.
    Brother Jon, Jon, my brother, are you sleeping?


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