One Less Scoundrel


Jean de la Bruyere visited me Sunday afternoon when I had fallen asleep with a poetry book on my face. He asked what business I had messing with poetry. I asked what business a 17th century Frenchman had lecturing me in my dreams. He adjusted his periwig, put his hands on his hips and quoted himself in a ridiculous fake French accent. “There are certain things in which mediocrity is intolerable: poetry, music, painting, public eloquence. What torture it is to hear a frigid speech being pompously declaimed, or second-rate verse spoken with all a bad poet’s bombast!” Well. How could I answer that? The man had a point.

Then I woke. When I took the book off my face, Ted Kooser, Poet, said to me: “Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what could be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world.” I like Ted. I think I’ll keep right on writing bad poetry. It keeps me amused and sometimes out of trouble even. Sometimes.