This poem appeared in an anthology dedicated to frogs and toads.
You have to
fill your head
Norman Moser said.
I remembered it
for thirty years.
So I spent
most of last night
reading an anthology
of what's popular.
Some poems spoke to me;
to someone else;
to speak to
no live ear.
poems that shouted,
poems that whispered,
poems that cried,
and poems that
appeared to say,
O well. What the hell.
Let's have poetry
instead of toast.
Don't you see
in imaginary gardens;
in imaginary toads;
in real gardens;
in real toads?
It may not save you,
or amuse you.
But you might
as well ask,
The Poetic States of America
This originally appeared in Rattle
No one knew why
but the demand for poetry suddenly multiplied.
Dealers paid big bucks for original manuscripts
while the country’s readers clamored for more.
Garrets and attics went out of style:
poets lived in mansions.
Anyone who could write gave it a try
and most sold whatever they scribbled.
Poetry factories sprang up.
Dozens of new M.F.A.s had desks in giant rooms
with supervisors walking the aisles
to make sure they were producing
eight hours a day, six days a week,
50 weeks a year with two weeks off for inspiration.
If a child expressed a wish to be a poet
the parents raised their eyes from the newest volumes
and nodded yes, a very wise choice.
It was a stable living, better than doctoring or lawyering.
Just be sure to get your education, they said,
so you can be hired by Random House
or another of the 50 better publishers.
Those with talent made it to the highest levels:
some went into quality control, others marketing,
or sales. On the stock exchanges
the different publishers made fortunes for their investors.
Boeing Aircraft converted all its factories to produce poems.
The newest TV serial was called “The Poet”.
There were poet detectives, poet garbagemen,
financial poets, athlete poets.
Several presidential candidates
toured the county reading their works.
Poets became Presidents of General Motors
(now called General Poetry) and General Electric
(Electric Poetry Plus).
But all wasn’t right in the poetic world:
there were still the homeless
(those who couldn’t or wouldn’t pen poems);
and the hacks in boiler rooms writing lame clichés.
The Poets’ Unions fought for more money
and got it but soon a thriving black market grew
where one could buy original manuscripts
at tremendously inflated prices.
There were those who hoarded poems
and those who consumed inordinate amounts
and beat others to the most important writings.
Not to mention people who spent entire lives
addicted to poetry sacrificing peace of mind
and sometimes even starving.
Poetry Anonymous was created for them
but most were content to be the way they were.
Then came the great crash of 2089.
Some poems lost over half their value
and others weren’t worth the paper they were printed on.
This brought suicides by the thousands
with investors and authors jumping out of windows
staining with blood the worthless poems which littered
the streets. The President was impeached
because he’d covered up his writing block
and all along had had a staff of ghosters
producing what he called his “works”.
All was as it had been: schools again
produced scientists and soldiers in the United
(no longer called the Poetic) States of America.
We invaded several sovereign countries
and bombed others. Only those who’d been poets
before the change and always would be poets
were still producing broken lines and odd-shaped stanzas
though they did other things to eat.
It was a victory for sanity. Or was it?
John Laue, teacher/counselor, a former editor of Transfer and Associate Editor of San Francisco Review has won awards for his writing beginning with the Ina Coolbrith Poetry Prize at The University of California, Berkeley. With five published poetry chapbooks, and a book of prose advice for people diagnosed as mentally ill, he presently coordinates the reading series of The Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium, and edits the online magazine Monterey Poetry Review. A full-length book of his dramatic poems titled A Confluence of Voices is due to be published early next year by Futurecycle Press.