Of different Spirits to discern,
And how distinguish which is which,
The Poet’s vein, or scribbling Itch?
Then hear an old experienced Sinner
Instructing thus a young Beginner.”
So writes Jonathan Swift in “On Poetry: a Rhapsody,” a poem nearly three centuries old that reads like this morning’s assessment of the “poetry scene.” Not poetry but the wish to be thought of as a poet spawns armies of fakers and frauds. Never has our need for a Swift or Pope been more dire. As Swift reminds us: “All Human Race wou’d fain be wits, / And Millions miss, for one that hits.” My own “new Attempter” is my youngest son, David, age twelve, who titles his self-published inaugural collection Anecdotal Fantasy from a Skeptical Mind. He dedicates it to three of his friends and “to Patrick, who likes good poetry.” Here is my favorite, untitled, from the eight poems in the collection (all spelling, grammar, metrics, punctuation, rhymes and humor sic):
“Has it ever crossed your mind
If you went to the North Pole, what would you find?
Santa has a bit of a gut
And turned into a first-class nut
Watching Seinfeld and the Brady Bunch
Eating his corn nuts, crunch crunch crunch.
The reindeer never take a day off
The light is going out in Rudolph
They lost their old friend DancerAfter a hard battle with cancer.
Mrs. Claus is long gone
She ran away to Florida with a guy named Sean
The elves are the saddest sight
Just looking at them fills you with fright
For when more and more kids begged for toys
Elves were made in the lab to please the girls and the boys
Things went very, very bad
And the elves went very, very mad
The workshop turned into Lord of the Flies
So if you ask for a fur coat
You might have some reindeer hides
So I beg and plead with my heart in my voice
Skipping Christmas would be a good choice!”
Let’s give Swift the final word: “Be mindful when Invention fails, / To scratch your head, and bite your nails.”