Thursday, June 7, 2012

Poem 2 - Loading a Boar

Just as I had no doubt what my first poem post would be, I knew exactly what my second would be. David Lee’s “Loading a Boar” makes me smile—and want to write—every time I read it.

I met David Lee when I was in college. I was in Anaheim, California, reading a selection of my poems at the Sigma Tau Delta (English Honor Society) National Convention. I didn’t realize they gave awards at the end of the convention, so imagine my surprise when my name was called to receive the award for best original poetry. I wasn’t dressed up like everyone else, and I wasn’t even going to attend the conference, thinking I’d go sightseeing instead. Glad I went.

But anyway, I had breakfast with David Lee one morning. I don’t remember what we talked about, what I said, or anything he said, but I remember thinking, “This is just a normal guy who just happens to write poetry. Maybe I could do that.”

Loading a Boar
David Lee

We were loading a boar, a goddamn mean big sonofabitch and he
jumped out of the pickup four times and tore my stockracks and
rooted me in the stomach and I fell down and he bit John on the
knee and he thought it was broken and so did I and the boar stood
over in the far corner of the pen and watched us and John and I just
sat there tired and Jan laughed and brought us a beer and I said,
“John it ain’t worth it, nothing’s going right and I’m feeling half dead
and haven’t wrote a poem in ages and I’m ready to quit it all,” and
John said, “shit young feller, you ain’t got started yet and the reason’s
cause you trying to do it outside yourself and ain’t looking in and if
you wanna by god write pomes you gotta write pomes about what
you know and not about the rest and you can write about pigs and
that boar and Jan and you and me and the rest and there ain’t no way
you’re gonna quit,” and we drank beer and smoked, all three of us,
and finally loaded that mean bastard and drove home and unloaded
him and he bit me again and I went in the house and got out my
paper and pencils and started writing and found out John he was

What I love about this poem:
There is a phrase used more often in writing classes and workshops than any other phrase: write what you know. I don’t know how long this sage advice has been around, but it was likely first uttered by a college workshop professor who decided he couldn’t slog through one more bad made-up story. Me, I always took the advice very literally. I’ve never written fiction. Anyone can make stuff up, but only I can tell my story.

That’s what’s going on here. When you believe that loading a boar would make a good poem, and then you sit down to write that poem, you’re a writer.

Lee is also a master of using local dialect to color his poems without them becoming gimmicky. I’ll share another great example of this in the future.

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