Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Monster Mash

Some two decades ago, a writer friend of mine lit a literary firecracker under a frequently pretentious and usually drowsy open microphone gathering of poets. He simultaneously created a monster. It wasn’t his intention to unleash a fifty-something troll upon society, but these kinds of things happen on occasion.

It started out very innocently: an acquaintance of his wrote a poem and asked my friend to read it for him. This fledgling poet was a blue-collar guy through and through—the shy and retiring kind—and couldn’t envision himself pouring out his soul and spleen before his peers. My friend told him “No” in no uncertain terms. “You’ve got to read it yourself. It’s your work,” he said. The local yokel reluctantly agreed and recited his poem in a public forum.

From that moment on, this formerly inconspicuous neighbor of ours was hooked—line and sinker. He just couldn’t get enough of standing before audiences and reading his latest scribbling. Yes, a man who boasted how he never read anything—other than technical manuals for his line of work—considered himself a poet extraordinaire and literary heavyweight overnight. He churned out the verse faster than fast, and even developed a gaggle of devotees. He wasn't half bad, I thought. But his acolytes were in for the shocks of their lives when they asked their master to have a gander at what they’d written. His common rejoinder: “This is complete and utter garbage." He could also be heard to cry, "Stop wasting my time,” crushing countless young grasshoppers along the way. People, by the way, who merely desired a whiff of encouragement from their revered mentor. The man’s runaway ego ran away all right as he trashed one and all who dared follow his lead in the poetical arts. Twenty years later and he’s still at it. But I can assure you: He’s no Robert Frost.

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