More advice to a would-be poet


My friend Kitty, who knows about such matters, offers useful advice to would-be poets at her blog. As a holder of a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, I am an authority on worthless career choices in general; however, when I graduated kindergarten, I was also awarded a diploma naming me a Bachelor of Rhymes. Thus, I just happen to have the academic credentials to offer my own supplementary advice to would-be poets:

  • Worthless prose can be easily turned into prize-winning poetry by simply inserting random carriage returns.
  • Fairly or not, if your surname is Astor, you’ll inevitably be written off as a poetaster. Concentrate on the family fur-trading and real-estate fortune instead.
  • A line of iambic pentameter need not be literally five feet long, despite the name. If necessary, however, this can be easily achieved by increasing the size of your font.
  • As the setting of the novel Moby-Dick, the film The Nanny Diaries, and the TV sitcom Wings, the island of Nantucket is still a surprisingly fertile and untapped source of inspiration for limericks, dirty or otherwise.
  • Think carefully before accepting Virgil’s offer of a guided tour through Hell and Purgatory. Can you honestly do better than the last poet who covered this topic? Do you have a one-way or return ticket? Is this the Roman poet Virgil or professional wrestler Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase’s henchman Virgil?
  • Wearing black is slimming, but so is supporting oneself as a professional poet. Doing both is not only overkill but also a dead giveaway of your amateur standing.
  • Not only is finding a rhyme for the word “orange” impossible, but the definitive citrus-related verses have already been written — “Lady Marmalade” by Patti LaBelle — so don’t even bother.
  • Haiku and “Beowulf” respectively demonstrate that poems about the Japanese are shorter than average and poems about Danes are longer than average (an interesting correlation with actual height). Poetry is therefore one of the few fields in which the Japanese work less hard than the worldwide average, making it an ideal career choice for lazy people in that nation.
  • If you write a semi-autobiographical novel about an oven, follow this up by smothering yourself in a bell jar.
  • Should you be fortunate and successful enough to be named Poet Laureate, don’t pass up your right to wear a wreath of laurel leaves, in accordance with ancient tradition. In a pinch, a bay leaf plucked from your crown can enliven any soup, stew, braise, or pâté.

10 Responses to “More advice to a would-be poet”

  1. I was thinking that the Virgil in question would have been former Detroit Tigers pitcher Virgil Vasquez — but apparently all he’s good for is serving up home runs. (Thirteen in just over 61 career innings? Maybe you should turn to poetry, pal!)

  2. 2 Jay

    Dibiase’s Virgil’s tour of Hell feels like it’d be a lot less moralizing.

    YOU: “And what are THOSE souls imprisoned for?”

    VIRGIL: [fans money at you]

    YOU: “You did that the last 306 times. These guys can’t all be in for greed. Or… money fanning.”

    VIRGIL: [fans money at you]

    YOU: “You’re a little bit retarded, aren’t you.”

    VIRGIL: [fans money at you]

    YOU: “I’m just going to chill out and enjoy the cruise a little, then. You want to wake me when we get to Satan?” [starts snoring]

    VIRGIL: [fans money at you]

  3. 3 Marty

    Door-hinge. Orange.

  4. 4 Peter Lynn

    I think the wrestler Virgil — aka Mike Jones — actually inhabits his own circle of professional wrestling hell. His most famous character in the WWF was so named as a jab at Dusty Rhodes, who was the booker for WCW at the time and whose real name is Virgil Runnels. Then, when he went to WCW, they renamed him Vincent as a rib on Vince McMahon. Then they renamed him Shane as a rib on Shane McMahon. No doubt his retirement from wrestling was at least partly to avoid being renamed Stephanie.

    The man spent most of his career being used by various wrestling promoters to make fun of each other, and he deserved better. Mike Jones has a degree in mathematics from the University of Virginia. Ted DiBiase, on the other hand, is a college dropout. In a perfect world, Mike Jones would have been the Million-Dollar Man (or at least the Math Librarian). At the very least, they could have let him keep his original wrestling moniker, Soul Train Jones, which has blaxploitation movie franchise written all over it.

  5. 5 Peter Lynn

    Also, there’s apparently a hill in Wales called the Blorange, so there’s another rhyme. Oddly enough, it’s referred to as the “purple-headed mountain” thanks to the copious amounts of heather found on it — “purple” being one of the other words that’s said to have no rhyme.

  6. That is literally the most anyone has ever written about Virgil, including probably his parents.

  7. 7 Peter Lynn

    Well, in defense of the Jones family, they’re more mathematically inclined than good with words.

    Incidentally, Mike Jones now works as a math teacher, and I remember hearing that Tito Santana became a driving instructor. Imagine having them as part of the same faculty; it’d be like the short-lived Lyle Alzado sitcom Learning the Ropes, except better.

  8. 8 Reasonable Fellow

    You use the phrase “purple-headed mountain” as if I shouldn’t be chuckling at it.

  9. 9 Peter Lynn

    It’s actually pretty filthy, now that I think of it.

    Also, what is wrong with me that I made a professional wrestling reference in a post about poetry and didn’t think to mention “Leaping” Lanny Poffo and his gimmick of verbally demolishing his opponent with the cutting wit of his satirical verse, then being brutally beaten up by his angry opponent before he could even finish throwing all his frisbees into the crowd? I am double-dumb.

  10. 10 Scott


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