Introducer: Mark Scroggins, after 4 years of geekish isolation in high school (most notable achievement: Latin club, for god's sake) & uncountable years of geekish, isolated intellectual humiliation in college & grad school, is now circling the drain of his middle years, exposing his ignorance at every turn to colleagues & unfortunate students. He 'teaches' modernist & postmodernist poetry & culture, though he doesn't believe in postmodernism anymore, & leads poetry writing workshops, though he suspects that poetry writing can't really be 'taught.'*
MS: This poem, which I wrote when I was an undergraduate – & which, as you can see, was actually typed on an actual typewriter [holds up sheet of onionskin] – doesn't seem to have a title. One of the few things I knew that still proves true is that titles are important, and hard. But if I had titled it, it would have been called "The Fish." I will read it in my best William Shatner voice, so you know it's poetry:
When I was a child, I love to playat fishing in the shallow pond behindmy grandfather's house in Alma, Texas,dropping strings and pebbles into the water,roiling the bottom mud in watery dust-clouds,chasing the tiny fish that crept along the slime.The water of the pool was clear, the fishas sharp and shiny as minted coins;I could see them move from left to right,but when I tried to touch them with a stick,they were not there.The mind is a fish,and moves in a medium, turning aroundbarriers and nosing muddy depths,darting and circling until it returnsto chase the self it cannot catch, to findthe pond dried up, and with it the frogsand minnows;and my grandparents moved away.I had forgotten it all, but for the clearnessof the water, the way the scales, refracted,flashed the sunlight to my grasping eye.
So what "words of wisdom" can be derived from that calcified but still slightly smelly turd? I wrote it for a professor who endlessly drilled into us that the iambic meter was the true genius of English verse – so it's roughly iambic, at times intrusively so. He told us to write about things we knew & cared about – so I wrote about my childhood & my grandparents' pond. He told us to let the specific experience open up to a larger insight – so I cooked up some crap about "the mind" and memory.
In sum: while I agree wholeheartedly with the smart & even inspiring things my colleagues have just told you – don't believe a thing we say.
*Yes, I composed that intro myself.