Wanted: Someone To Write An Ode to a Urinal

Is there no one in Minnesota who can handle the job?

A question not for me, but for my readers. (See answer to next question.)


Why do so many poets live with their mothers?

Raoul Benavides

That's where our readers live.


What is our most poetic neighboring state?

For comedy, head east to Wisconsin. For tragedy, head west to the Dakotas.


Is Minnesota a good place for poets?

Anyplace that's cold, dark, and makes us feel misunderstood is perfect.


What's the one civic issue that you would flatly refuse to write about?

Meat raffles.


Is all poetry good poetry?

Most poetry--most art of any kind--is garbage, though every artist carries a license to fail. Poetry does seem to be infamous for being more routinely awful than other art forms. This may be because poetry has such a low barrier to market entry, as the economists say. If you can read this and you own a pencil, you can call yourself "poet."

You can't sit at a piano and compose a symphony without years of training, yet at this very moment, thousands of would-be poets are clearing their throats in front of open mics, or assembling the first 50 poems they've ever written into a book. The glory of democracy and cheap paper in a market economy? A serious quality control issue? Or is it both?


"Of Any Rink"

So silent the distraction there sits movingly, an idea

dreamed as if to exclude us, a difference discovered

in a first step taken into an altered state only, a rightness,

a plot on the brink, like something that should be snatched

back from a child. We built it, and then, because it is never enough,

rebuilt it, a blueprint frozen for some less finished design,

abstract scribblings, a spot for every anthem

or odd man rush, which like all madness, is atomic.

There is no seeing through this to some more diaphanous past.

You will find no "country" here--or so we scream,

the only way we know to tell you that we're right.

And so the truth will grow hard, yet more travelable,

like anything made and then most threatened by the sun,

and in so doing, be made more beautiful,

before we emerge defeated--or is it elated?--

into the air of slightly newer evenings.


"Upon the Pillsbury Poppin' Fresh Doughboy's First Visit to Mill Ruins Park"

Always this body, though never the consequence, the light,

which appears open and, therefore, impossible.

Dogs stumbling into us in their tenderness.

Like all the people we walked past today

and said nothing to, and the way all of it was ignored

by the tiny cameras--millionaires sipping spritzers in their condos,

medieval limestone, the ghosts of flour dust,

laughter exhaled like air from a slashed tire.

Memory is the only word we have for this,

memory of a sudden sweetness and a dream that was the world

as we thought we knew it, disappearing in a fire that was never given a name.

Who would have thought the new order we created to destroy

the old order would now lie among us as yet another birthright?

Everything about the end had been rehearsed in advance,

even the ribbons they let us cut merely for reaching it.

One river bank staring at another, barges slipping downstream

at some mysterious speed slower than the river's own,

a strangeness still soft in the middle, forever desperate to be touched.


Leslie Adrienne Miller


Most overrated dead poet?

I could never abide Spencer.


Please include here the worst couplet or short stanza you've ever written:

Oh no, I've written far too many to choose just one!


Would you be willing to pose in a Poet Laureate Swimsuit Calendar?

Depends on how you define "swimsuit."


Which of these colors sounds the best: ochre, magenta, red?

Red. Red. Red. Reeeeed.


Which president would you most like to write a poem about: Abraham Lincoln, Gerald Ford, Millard Fillmore, Teddy Roosevelt, or George W. Bush? What would be the theme of that poem?

I once wrote a terrible poem about Ronald Reagan and hot dogs, so I've done my duty in that department. I think we live in a moment when either celebration or scourge of American presidents is a tired subject.


What rhymes with orange?

Phalange. (Okay, it's an off-rhyme, and not only do I prefer off-rhymes, but "phalange" is such a wonderfully ugly word that it has a certain beauty.)


What are your three favorite words?

Rhododendron, chinchilla, ammonia, misanthrope. Did you say three? Well, you get one free.


Three least favorite words?

Conifer and nougat and wimple and ejaculate (another free one).


Which local news personality has the most poetic name: Robyne Robinson, Rusty Gatenby, or Rick Kupchella? Please write a couplet using that name.


There was once a newswoman chatty and winsome,
and Robyne Robinson was her name, oh, and then some.


What percentage of your poems turn out well? What are the determining factors?

A serious question? Very few of them really--maybe 20 percent, and less the older I get, probably because I've been teaching so many years and feel I ought to be at least as hard on myself as I am on my students. But also, the older I get the more I think the world doesn't need to hear everything I have to say. The ego, like the pate, thins with age.

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