Email to a Young Poet

Note: This is a parody of Rainer Maria Rilke’s famous book, “Letters to a Young Poet”. In a nutshell, the book contains the correspondence between Franz Xaver Krappus, a young man riveted by Rilke’s extraordinary poetry, and Rilke (Franz kept sending Rilke his poetry).

In the opening of the book, Krappus (this was his real name, not a name created as commentary on his poetry) writes:

“After our talk, I decided to send Rainer Maria Rilke my poetic attempts and to ask him for his judgement.”

Below is a riff of what I think Rilke would have sent back in a modern email correspondence (Rilke was born in 1875 and died in 1926).


I have been receiving your vapid attempts at poetry,
which bastardize the dignity of this sacred art form, degrade women, the elderly, and the obese, and often strike me as low budget beer commercials employing a rhythm scheme devised for toddlers.

Additionally, I have been receiving the forwards of all the juvenile crap you have found on the Web and consider entertaining; please remove me from this list at once.

Franz, writing cannot be taught, as writing is simply a tool used by a deep soul to dig a tunnel from a vast, lonely, and earthy place up to the piercing, diminutive, and sun-lit world. Deep souls, Franz, cannot be taught or bought in a weekend writing seminar.

Having said this, if you are still intent on attending my writing seminar this weekend, I will gladly take your money, as I have few other sources of income and must often sacrifice integrity for practicality.

I can only hope that my direct and repeated bitchslaps to your shallow soul will cause something to be felt in your innermost core, and this, you see, is all I (or anyone else) can do to help you grow as a writer.

For $15/seminar, I believe that after 30-40 sessions, my direct and relentless assaults on your callous and oblivious being will begin to awaken something in you that may, with the promise of a second hand lottery ticket, result in the grand payoff of having a soul worthy of a voice.

Yours for $15/hour,
Rainer Maria Rilke


Poetry Degree

When I consider all the degrees one can get that mean nothing, if not less, to me, I think an advanced degree in poetry wins.

The sealed stamp of the degree on paper is a qualification like a passport stamped many times over with “wrong road” printed everywhere.

Why did you need academia to improve your commentary on life?

Was it really the form, the meter, the use of metaphor or simile?

Did you do it to impress someone? Did it make you feel more esteemed? Do you now tell people about your advanced degree in poetry?

A degree has no value if it creates none.

The mechanics of poetry is: wax on, wax off.

The unique inspiration of good poetry is taught far, far away from those who institutionally aggregate to dissect it, and the people who know this would never frame a stamped piece of paper that empowers anyone other than themselves to judge what they must.

For OC (2)

We had conquistador ambitions.

Battle plans were made, but we had no troops.

Now we are aging generals, we still have no troops.

Maybe we were meant to do nothing but plot.

We had a cavalcade of ambitious, disruptive plans,
but none of them worked out.

The best one now
is to grow old together.

Let’s watch the sun go down
we’ll smoke and drink wine
move imaginary pieces
and comment on how things end.

Maybe that should have been the plan all along.

“Best Poems” category

I write two kinds of poetry:

  1. “On Demand” – meaning: people give me a topic, a time constraint (3 minutes), and a number of words.  These poems are usually rough.
  2. “I Meant That” – poems I worked on without constraint.

I started a new category called “Best Poems“, which is a collection of category #2 (I had time to think and edit).

I did this so that you can read the stuff I think is my best.

Sacred Illusion

When she’s feeling her worst,
the only comfort she wants
is to be told everything will be OK.

I’ve learned to tell her this,
even though I know it’s a lie.

If I am ever beside her on her deathbed,
and I tell her that,
I fear she’ll leave this world with the realization
that the lifetime of comfort
that gave her a sacred sense of home,
was nothing but an illusion.

Poem on Demand

Another from Zeitgeist, 6/29/08.

The guy who suggested this topic was smoking pot at the table next to us (hey, in SF at a beer garden, this is wide open).

His eyes were really red, and he was totally loving this poetry game we play.

Asked for a topic, he gave an ironic theme.

Theme: Why I Don’t Smoke Pot
Word Count: 23+

I made two versions.

Why I Don’t Smoke Pot
Don’t smoke weed you say
I’m still waiting for why
Your argument has no life
Nothing about you ever has
Get high, then try again.

Why I Don’t Smoke Pot
Give me a reason not to
It must be large and philosophical.
If you can’t think of one
Get high, then think again.