Stuff happens to me and I have these feelings, but they’re not like novel feelings, or major motion picture feelings. The feelings I’m talking about are smaller feelings, the feelings that could be, should be, poems. You might be thinking: “Why would I want to write about your life when I could write about my life?” And OK, that’s a fair question. But in the Renaissance, didn’t artists paint portraits of their patrons? Similarly, my poet-employee would be painting a portrait of me—a chemist presently working for Dow-Corning in Columbus, Ohio—only in words.
It doesn’t matter to me whether you use free verse or rhyme, as long as the poems about my life aren’t too bouncy. Because I don’t know about you, but my life is more unpredictable than that. It’s a long way from A/B/A/B. It’s more like A/Z/D/F! Did I think I’d be the guy who invented the Kozy Sweater De-Nubbifier? Hell no. I thought I’d invent solar-powered cars or revolutionize medical equipment, but wool is problematic and I addressed that. So if you’re wondering how can this guy afford his own poet? That’s how.
Sometimes, to enter the realm of poetry, all I have to do is see stuff, or smell stuff, or even taste stuff. Like yesterday I bit into this Dorito and suddenly it was—wavy lines back to the past—Becca’s house, eleventh grade. Becca was my high-school girlfriend and we’d go to her house during fifth period, fool around, get high, get some serious munchies, and then eat entire bags of Doritos. And I’m not just talking about déja vu. I knew I hadn’t eaten that Dorito before, but it made me think of other Doritos I’d eaten. So the poem would begin with a Dorito, go back in time to Becca, and then describe what that Dorito made me feel.
One time, I was sitting in the hot tub and it was April and something just reminded me of Mexico. And it wasn’t even like I’d had Taco Bell for lunch. Was it the sunshine? Was it the smell of chlorine? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure a poet would. Another time I found my college yearbook in the garage when I was looking for my shin guards and I looked myself up. And there I was, only younger. And I was like, OK I didn’t feel young then, but I was, and I don’t feel old now, but I guess I am, comparatively. And isn’t that a paradox? And couldn’t a paradox be a poem?
If that doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, here’s another story. I took my kids to the movies and there was a preview for a movie starring a certain actress who was really hot. And I realized I would never sleep with that woman. Not that I would anyway, because I’m happily married, but when I was younger it was possible. Like, who knows? I’d be on vacation in California and there she’d be on the beach in Santa Monica playing volleyball, and one thing would lead to another. But that day at the movies I knew that boat had left the station, that train had set sail.
In addition to things happening to me, and seeing, smelling, hearing, or tasting things, sometimes I get what can only be called thoughts. Like I was recently flipping through my freshman English textbook, and a light bulb went off in my head like a bolt of lightning! I thought: Could you have a poem without any words at all?! That is to say, I’m open to an avant-garde poet.
It was in said textbook that I stumbled upon these words by the great Irish poet T.S. Eliot: “We had the experience but missed the meaning.” So, in conclusion: I supply the experience. You supply the meaning. I pay you.
POET WANTS LITERARY SUBLET It’s not about square-footage, or amenities, or even the location, it’s about the inspiration. I have these poems in my head but can’t get them down because there’s something not right about where I’m living. There’s the smell of new carpeting for one thing, which gives me an office-y, computer-y feeling, whereas poetry requires a literary, longhand vibe. It requires nature’s majesty or Jacob Riis squalor.
I’d consider a house in the country or, even better, the forest, maybe even a bird sanctuary where I could sit at my kitchen table gazing out at rare birds nibbling on suet. As for utilities, I don’t plan to use any. I plan to work by candlelight and huddle around a woodstove, wearing those fingerless gloves they wear in Dostoevsky. Simply put, I intend to transcend the body. The Hardy-esque locals with their guttural, agrarian accents will come to see me as both madwoman and mystic.
Would I consider an urban sublet? Yes, if it met the following criteria: there would have to be a flower seller on the corner, and Allen Ginsberg would have to have lived there, preferably in the “Howl” period. I’m not interested in an “apartment,” but rather a tenement where I’m surrounded by the sunken, raccoon eyes of worm-ridden children. Their mothers, who seem to be perpetually in the tenth month of pregnancy, will cower in fear when they hear the husbands coming home, hurtling empty vodka bottles against the walls and ranting in Eastern European languages. In exchange for telling their stories, these benighted families will share their meager rations with me—a slice of stale bread, a thin potage—as I come to share their tubercular pallor. At night, the sound of rats should drive me to the brink of madness. And perhaps, the distant sound of a street musician?
It goes without saying the suburbs are out. If I wanted spiritual deadness, I could stay put.
THEO WANTED The poetry equivalent of Vincent Van Gogh is looking for a Theo. Driven, talented, heavily medicated, I too need a devoted businessman/brother who will find meaning in supporting my talent. In exchange for rent money and a regular allowance, I will dedicate my best poems to my Theo, but will obviously use my Theo’s actual name. I will gratefully mention my Theo in every interview, and my Theo can expect to be featured prominently in several major biographies. One of these biographies will no doubt become a successful bio-pic in which there’s every chance that my Theo will be played by a charismatic supporting actor like Kevin Spacey or Philip Seymour Hoffman. These Hollywood types will certainly want to fly halfway across the country to meet my Theo, in pursuit of accuracy and Oscar nominations.
The biographies of me will cover the two major periods of my life as a writer—my pre-Theo career, when I worked at Quizno’s and lived in the western suburbs, and my post-Theo career, when I devoted myself full-time to my writing in the south of France. (And ma maison est Theo’s maison, as far as I’m concerned!)
In a world where poets laureate are paid a meager $15,000 a year, I can’t promise cash back on this investment, but front row seats at the next Democratic president’s inaugural are likely, and generations to come will thank my Theo for his prescience. Are you a prospective Theo wondering if I’m the real deal? Let me lay some verses on you!
MUSE WANTED Inspiration is all around us, but I want it more centrally located. So I’m in the market for a muse—a female muse. Is this discrimination? Perhaps. But guys tend to get antsy and want to go play basketball, or they sit there channel surfing, eating all your snacks. Anyway, there’s no denying that Eros is part of the creative process, and I don’t like the way men smell.
Due to this erotic component, preference will be given to beautiful muses. Golden tresses would be nice, what Yeats bitterly referred to as “yellow hair,” but whether the carpet matches the drapes, that’s her business. Names with mythological resonance are highly desirable—Persephone, Circe, Leda—as are names with a foreign film vibration: Simone, Carmen, Rochelle. No Mary Pats need apply.
What I don’t want is some chick who’s always offering suggestions: “You know what would make a good poem?” etc ... I’m a poet. I know what would make a good poem. I’m looking for a woman who suggests poetry by her very being, not somebody who’s all up in my face about applying for grants and teaching jobs. (Once, at Iowa, when I was dating another poet, I wrote her a love poem and she corrected my sestina!)
The more I think about it, the more I think it would be better if my muse didn’t speak at all. She doesn’t have to be a deaf-mute; I just don’t want her speaking English. I don’t want a newbie, but I don’t want a muse that’s been inspiring legions of poets. This could open the door to self-doubt. Does she really think I’m the voice of a generation? Or is she just my muse “for now”? Did she like Charles Simic’s similes better than mine? Did Sharon Olds show her a better time? Once the self-doubt has a foot in the door, you’re done for the day. You might as well curl up on the sofa with the new McSweeney’s and a six-pack.
How much is a woman’s comely, unwavering faith in my genius worth? Let’s just say the salary’s negotiable. My brother’s babysitter gets twelve dollars an hour but that’s for taking care of kids who get stinky and need things all the time. My muse just has to smile mysteriously as I turn away from her naked body to scribble something on a pad beside the bed. Despite the similarities, it’s not prostitution. It’s collaboration. It’s Stieglitz and O’Keefe. Wyeth and Helga. It’s nakedness in the service of art.
BAD RELATIONSHIP WANTED I married my college sweetheart, have two adorable children, and an enviable job teaching poetry in a small college town. My husband mows the lawn, changes the oil, and sprays the wasps. He plays basketball with the boys, does more than his share of the cooking, and is no slouch in the bedroom. You see the problem? Happiness.
Not only is writing about a happy marriage boring, it’s risky. You’re tempting fate. It’s like serving yourself divorce papers. So I’m looking for a bad relationship, beyond bad, tormented, probably with a man but who knows? This isn’t about sex; it’s about revitalization. The affair itself will be short, but the man should be fascinating enough to obsess about for years.
I want a lover who ignores my e-mails and sporadically returns my phone calls, who says he loves me and then sleeps with younger, skinnier women. He should randomly give me romantic gifts—an antique cameo, a Corsican mandolin—that I later discover were charged to my credit card. A manic-depressive poet would be perfect, but I’d consider a Neil Cassady-type who lives the poetry. Ideally, my lover would drive a Mustang convertible, Vespa, or vintage truck.
This is all about encountering “the other,” so men of various races are encouraged to apply, but preference will be given to Gypsies. (My husband? You guessed it. A white guy.) My lover should drink too much, but not to the point of throwing up, and should have tattoos that suggest a mysterious past with the merchant marines. He may or may not still be married to a Vegas showgirl and shouldn’t know how many children he’s sired. He should show me things about myself that I never knew were there and make me do things in bed that I blush to remember. When he leaves me, and he must, I will weep desperately for days until I finally drag myself to the computer to write it out.
They say the definition of crazy is doing what you’ve always done and expecting different results. I’ve always been with men who respected me. Where’s the poetry in that? If you’re a charismatic dickhead with a talent for making women unhappy, please respond to this ad.
Editor’s note: Readers who want to respond to these ads should contact Wendy MacLeod, a SWPF (single white female playwright) looking for nutjobs to exploit for additional material, via firstname.lastname@example.org.