Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Poet for a Day...In May

Thirty-two years ago in the waning days of my freshman year in college, I wrote a short poem entitled, “School’s Out.” What’s memorable to me about this piece is not that I got an “A,” but that I made the cut and landed on my English professor’s esteemed mimeograph sheet. After each and every one of our poetry assignments were turned in, he would select what he considered the best works from his two freshman-year poetry classes. Previously, I had found myself on the mimeograph sheet—uncredited this time—with a poem the professor used as Exhibit A to point out glaring errors in execution or some such thing. And I actually liked that one better.

With the honor of being on the mimeograph sheet came—unfortunately from where I sat—a live reading. The poem’s author was asked to read his or her poem aloud in class, unrehearsed, and await a critique. I somehow pulled it off on this day in May. When my professor said, “Mr. Nigro, you read that very well,” I beamed internally in my guise as “Poet for a Day.”

As I further thumbed through my college ephemera on a recent trip down Memory Lane, I was struck, foremost, by the general pedestrian quality of my writing—largely uninspiring and very unmemorable. And I got the sinking feeling I wasn’t always giving it my best shot. Although I look back fondly on my collegiate years at Manhattan College, I nonetheless wrote a poem about being happy when the school year ended. The punch line: “Three cheers for this day…In May.” On the other hand, I was not in the least bit fond of my high school days, but, I suspect, “Three cheers for this day…In June” would not have gotten me on that prestigious mimeograph sheet. A great honor, but no poetry anthology forthcoming.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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