A Poem by Carl Leggo

Carl Leggo, University of British Columbia, carl.leggo@ubc.ca

Thin Skin

I just wrote a good poem,
not this poem, another,
and called out to Lana,
I just wrote a good poem, I said,
but a nagging niggling voice,
(not Lana’s, always supportive)
resounded, your poems aren’t any good,
and while I don’t really believe
my poems aren’t any good,
I’ve been thinking a lot lately
I can’t just simply ignore
the dismissive judgements of others
(even though I want to and suspect I will)
as I have for a long long time, decades even,
by insisting my poems are good,
at least according to me (their value
to be known one distant day like
Gertrude Stein knew the new poetry is
never appreciated for a long long time,
even a lifetime sometimes, even long
after the poet’s death), and Mother A
said, you will never be a writer
and Lou said, your poems aren’t very good
with the kind of fundamentalist authority
and eagerness for strict categorization,
even hubris, only a teacher can muster,
and an external reviewer for my promotion
said, his poems aren’t very good,
and I have been rejected by all
the pre-eminent literary journals
in Canada, and most of the less
eminent ones too, and my last
royalty cheque still wasn’t enough
for a big pizza at Sorrento’s,
and I can’t find my poems
in any bookstore in Corner Brook,
and even in Deer Lake airport
where I was sure my poetry was safe
from commentary and critique,
Joe Mercer said, the first book is better
than the second (I should
be glad Joe read both)
and I feel doomed that each
subsequent publication (if ever
there are any more, so uncertain)
will be worse than the last,
and certainly never as good as the first,
but in this cacophony of voices,
I wonder how my poems are being
judged (perhaps compared to Keats
and company, or perhaps compared
to an impressed gold standard of poetry
as if some king somewhere
has measured the distance
from his nose to his toes and knows
irrefutably a poem’s goodness)
and all I know is I must not
lose confidence in my poems
any more than I will lose faith
in my heart beaten but beating still
with hope and humour, held close, knowing
well any poem, even mine, is better than none

 

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