Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Gerard Ian Lewis (aka "OB"), rec.arts.poems, 2008-04-05
    "Humankind," pontificates my favorite human, "is rapidly approaching a magical threshold, a pivotal point in its history when poetry finally becomes cheaper than toilet paper."

    He lives north of the 49th Parallel.  His sole fault, if it can be considered one, is that his patience occasionally slips around the superficial and/or disingenuous .  He insists that, of these, the most egregious offenders are his compatriots. 

   "There's nothing worse," he declares, "than a hoser poser."

    As a poetry guru, he finds students of the craft gravitating to him with technical questions.  These he enjoys.  His answers are always thorough and easily understood.  People who confine their interest to poets rather than poems are somewhat less welcome.

    While in Westchester, he was approached by a pair of local students who had earlier fallen asleep during his 3-minute quicky explanation of scansion.  Now they ambushed him in the courtyard, demanding:  "Tell us, who is the greatest poet of our time?"

    It would be positively uncanadian for him to knee-jerk retort "What's it to you?"  Rather, he responds with his usual grace and candor.  For now.

     You see, the expectation is that my buddy will answer as every academic does:  by listing damned near every poet alive, lest anyone feel left out. 

    That isn't my man's style.

    "This is a no-brainer," he replies.  "Anyone who can tell iambs from trochees knows that Margaret Ann Griffiths  was the consensus choice as best poet of this century months before she wrote her signature piece, 'Studying Savonarola'.  Would we be discussing who the greatest poet of the 20th Century was if T.S. Eliot had been declared that before 'Prufrock'?"

    This information satisfies them for all of 1.6 seconds--the time it takes to do a web search.

    "Wait a minute," the one in the hipster uniform (a Bill Cosby dog's breakfast sweater and mismatched bowler) protests, as if he'd uncovered some nefarious duplicity, "she died in 2009."


    Well, it seems that dead poets are of no use to live ones.  To these live ones, anyway.  The dead are so uncommunicative!  Have you ever tried to network with one?  Or get one to blurb your University Press debut book? 

    Our hero braces for what's coming next.

Gerard Ian Lewis (aka "OB"), a.a.p.c, 2007-02-04
    "Okay," rephrases the OB Wannabe, "who is the best living poet?"

    "This is a tougher question," he begins, toying with the Fraud Squad confronting him.  "Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney and Rose Kelleher are all good choices..."

    They shake their heads, certain that now they're going to hear a roll call of every poet alive.

Him:    "...but I'm going to go with Wilma Spence¹."

Them:    "Who?!"

Him:     "You've never heard of her, I'm sure."

Them:    "Where is she from?"

Him:     "Someplace you've never heard of."

Them:    "You mean, like, New Jersey?"

Him:     "Saskatchewan."

Them:    "Where?!?"
Earl the Squirrel's Rule #22

     At this point the interrogators become suspicious, certain that there can't really be a place called "Saskatchewan".  (These are not Geography majors.)  The Grand Inquisitor's focus changes to Wilma's credentials.  What books has she authored?  None.  What magazines have published her work?  None.  What awards has she won?  None.  Contests?  None.  Who are her influences?  Everyone.  Who has she influenced?  Anyone with any sense.  Where does she teach?  Nowhere. 

Them:    "So, what makes her the best living poet?"

Him:     "Posting better poems than anyone else."

    Quizzical looks from the posse.  They stopped just short of asking what writing better poems had to do with being the best poet alive. 

    He left them with three words:




    The acolytes storm away, insulted by the gratuitous career advice.  Our hero shuffles off toward the cafeteria.  Talking about the greatest diner chef on the planet always makes him hungry.


¹ - Nom de plume of a poet we know well by her initials.

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