I’m not actually a published poet. I’m not even a poet. But I have decided to start declaring that I am.
I feel like this seems like a reasonable claim to make after I was forced to have a poem that I authored published in a local magazine.
As reluctant as I was to yield to the editor’s request, the magazine does have a readership of about 18,000 (along with a further 1,000 who read the online version). For small-town me, I feel like this is a reasonable enough number in order to proclaim myself published.
As reluctant as I was to submit this poem, there is an even more reluctant part of me that is secretly quite chuffed about it.
Admittedly it may seem like a peculiar scenario when one is, for some reason or other, forced to write poetry. Admittedly, I may have exaggerated for effect.
Let me be clear: I was, in no way, shackled to a desk and forced to produce poetry.
The real story goes more like this…
I have never understood poetry. I don’t know how it works or why humans do it. I have repeatedly demonstrated as much on this very blog with my half-assed attempts at poetic posts. However, I have never let an obstacle like lack of understanding stand in my way. So a few years ago I declared that I was going to revolutionise the face of modern literature and start writing poetry. I immediately took up my pen and jotted down the masterpiece that is “Ode to a Sphincter“.
To this day, I still consider it to be my magnum opus. My chef-d’oeuvre.
Even though it was mostly just a list of words that describe the actual function of a sphincter, I decided that it was my pièce de résistance. It was essentially utter nonsense, but it had a serious-sounding rhythm to it. It is rare that an artist will stumble upon their crowning achievement so early in their career (in my case: instantly), but I had done just that!
Obviously I was being ragingly sarcastic, but I acted serious whenever I lectured unsuspecting acquaintances on my new-found poetry talents.
The turning point in my relationship with Ode to a Sphincter came the day that I read the masterpiece to a friend of mine. Seeing the obvious joke in what I had created, she laughed and said she loved it “because it sounds like it is serious but it’s about a sphincter“.
She was right, but I am never one to miss an opportunity to mess with my friends.
Acting indignant, I informed her that it was actually a very serious poem.
I informed her that she may think it’s a dumb poem, but it’s actually about being undervalued and under-appreciated. I told her that the human body has over 50 different sphincters, not just the Anal Sphincter. Without these sphincters there would be things leaking out of us all the time. If we didn’t have sphincters then every time we lay down we would regurgitate whatever was in our stomachs. If we didn’t have sphincters then we would leave trails of urine whenever we moved. But no one ever thinks to thank their sphincters for doing their job. I informed my friend that my Ode dealt with the theme of being taken for granted.
I expected her to laugh again and tell me to stop prattling on. Given that she has a degree in English Literature or Theatre or something or the sort, I expected her to tell me to stop talking nonsense.
But she didn’t.
Instead her forehead furrowed into a serious expression.
“Oh yeah,” she nodded, “I can see that.”
At first I struggled not to facepalm. I was delighted that I had fooled an intelligent and educated person into thinking my poetry was serious, but aghast that I had done so so easily.
I suppose it is the nature of poetry that you can discern meaning where none was intended.
In fact, somewhere along the line I even convinced myself that my silly Ode to a Sphincter was a proper grown up’s poem.
Jump forward a few years and my Ode has not been forgotten.
I’ve written other poetry in the meantime – mostly with the intention of reassuring myself that I still don’t understand what poetry is – but it is Ode to a Sphincter that really tickled the fancy of my friends and family. So much so that a lady I work with was delightedly telling the Editor of a local magazine about my efforts. Next thing I knew, he had requested that I send it over to him. Because I can’t say no, suddenly it was being sent out to 18,000 locals.
As I have mentioned, I have decided this is sufficient to declare myself a published poet.
Here’s the original version of my magnum opus (or rather, my magnum “Ode-us”. Get it?)
Ode to a Sphincter
A temporary barrier for
To the passage of contents
Hidden from sight
Underrated in necessity
Obviously the last line has been omitted in the magazine version. There are various reasons for this:
- The editors/subeditors felt it inappropriate to print about faecal incontinence in a magazine that many families might read.
- It was generally felt that the faecal incontinence was implied by the “tragedy” and therefore unnecessary to state outright – I, however, like the impact of the last line.
In my own versions I think I will keep the last line because, like I said, I like the impact.
I find it to be a delightful little jolt to the senses, and a great place to end a poem.