This, today, on dVerse:

A term meaning “the art of poetry,” an Ars Poetica poem expresses that poet’s aims for poetry and/or that poet’s theories about poetry.

Very well then…


“The first poem was this: Poetry is dead.”

That’s what the man at the microphone said.

“The last shall be, Poetry is aliiiive…” he went on,

then suddenly someone struck a gong

and in from the wings snaked a loooong shepherds crook

which the speaker away from the podium took!

“Next!” came the cries from the peanut seats.

The spotlight spun and stopped on me.

I stood and strode to centerstage,

ahemmed and read from trembling page,

“A poem about poetry is a dicey proposition,

and there are far too many cooks in this kitchen!”

Cringingly I awaited the clangor

and the coming of the long sheep hanger

but neither one did come

so I wet my thumb

flipped to the next leaf

and read, “Good grief!

What is the meaning of this expression?

Good grief!” In a sweat, I managed to press on:

“Nothing’s good about grief, and good wants no grieving

yet one hears good grief every poetry evening

because most of verse is perky blues

a gay tapdance in crappy shoes

wherein each foot is hard put down

to make that happy clacking sound

and it hurts!

and what’s worse

than such schadenfreude performance

is what in wordy circles masquerades as romance

and what’s more egregious even than I love you

are the pieces which preach at one what to do

while the truly very epitome worst

is of course Poetica Ars

in which penner drops proverbial pants

halfmast and turning backward stands

showing the reader his hairy moon!”

At this, a murmur filled the room

preventing me from delivering my punchline,

a couplet capped by such a painstaking rhyme

that my mind had bled in birthing it,

as if anyone cared a whit

for my labors, no, no clamor for more

rather “Next!” and another spotlit boor

as I found my seat and sat and wept

knowing no consolation except

having stood longer on the coals

than most of those Ars Poetica holes.


Round one done,

turned out I’d won

the dubious honor of going again

so, wiping eyes and forcing grin,

I faced the crowd once more,

posing them this: “What’s poesy for?

Why composed and critiqued?”

By the almost-silence, some were somewhat piqued.

“Well I’ll give you what for. I’ll tell you why

words live epochs after poor bards die –

it’s because they help us to bear pain,

feel joy, know love, have hope, stay sane,

conceive of the new, hold onto the old,

show ourselves kindness, grow wise, be bold,

honor each other and do our duty,

respect nature and appreciate beauty,

alleviate inequity, revere the truth,

celebrate both advanced age and youth,

dam time’s river and inhabit the moment,

identify falsehood and explode it,

perceive the big overarching picture,

air grievances, give outrage vent,

rattle the cage in which we’re pent,

bridge class gaps and other social fissures,

tear down divisive language barriers,

confront fear, become better warriors,

fight hate, cultivate the culture of peace,

laugh and play, sing, pray and teach,

divine, define, refine value systems

find gifts and strengths and do something with them…

Wait! Don’t!” all shrill I implored

as a fist jerked the lever of a trapdoor

just under my feet. Suddenly I lay amid dusty pillows

while the audience hollered for the next fellow.

I’d been almost finished for the sake of the lord!

I flounced off the cushion pile onto the floor,

found a ladder to a hall to a door to a lounge

where some other non-winners were moping around.

“Hey, you’re really good,” one of them enthused.

“What I am,” I replied, “is concussed and bone-bruised.”

He guffawed. Someone clapped. I did a grimacing curtsy.

“Pearls to the pigs,” said my fan. “They’re unworthy.”