Leave the poems alone.

I haven’t read poetry since college.

I didn’t like it much to begin with and then I took a course with a professor who routinely had the class rewrite well-known poems. This exercise involved substituting nouns and verbs to change the theme of the work, but otherwise keep the structure and rhythm intact. It seemed dangerously close to endorsing plagiarism.

It should surprise no one that I didn’t take those assignments seriously. In fact, I often rewrote the poems so that they were about potted plants or common kitchen spices. That approach seemed to be working fine until I was called on to read aloud one day in class. My poem was about a wet washcloth.

To my great surprise (and mild concern), the professor liked it. It’s possible that I had written a half-way decent knock-off poem, but it’s probably more likely that mine passed muster because my classmates were trying even less. Either way, I lost a lot of respect for the genre that day. If I could produce something even barely adequate about a dishcloth, then how could I take the rest of it seriously?

Unfortunately, I didn’t keep the imposter poem. Nor do I remember what real poem it was modeled after. What a shame, because I would be totally willing to do a dramatic reading of both today. It’s been a while since I tried to hold in a snort.

It took 15 years, but I finally decided to give poetry another shot – reading it, I mean. I’ll never write it, let alone re-write it. So I settled on Lullabies, a collection of poems and parables about love. It’s Lang Leav’s sequel to Love & Misadventure, which is apparently much more popular but ultimately not what I chose mostly because it wasn’t on the “Noteworthy” table at Barnes & Noble.

I read it one night a few weeks ago during a snowstorm. I didn’t love it all, but I really liked this:


Here in time,
You are mine;
my heart has not
sung louder.

I do not know
why I love you so –
the clock knows not
its hour.

Yet it is clear,
to all that’s here,
that time is told
by seeing.

Even though
clocks do not know,
it is the reason
for their being.

And since this is an advice blog, I figured I should share this one too:


If a boy ever says, you remind me of someone – don’t fall in love with him. You will never be more than second best.

Seems right to me. But if you don’t like it, go ahead and rewrite it.

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