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GUESS MY POET: Starting to Talk about Characteristic-ness

I’ve been married for almost 15 years. That makes it easy difficult for my husband to find ways to make me happy.

One of his recent strategies is “Guess My Poet.” “Guess My Poet” is a version of “Guess My Superhero,” a game we’ve been playing with our kids for years—at dinner, in airports, waiting in line, riding on every imaginable form of transportation. “Guess My Superhero” is a version of “Marvel Guess Who” which is a version of “Guess Who” which is one of the (very) few tolerable board games designed for children under five, which means you can play it (sober) more than once in an afternoon and not feel despondent. It’s satisfying to flip down the little panels, narrow down the options, and try to guess your opponent’s hidden person before he guesses yours.

The verbal versions (no board required) are less mutual (only one person thinks of a secret person at a time) but more transportable and endlessly open to multi-genre spin offs. “Guess My__” games—all specialized subsets of “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral”—are easy ways to pass the time and occupy a restless child. They are also, on a deeper level, a way of communicating to someone else that you are interested in what s/he is interested in, that you know enough about superheroes or Star Wars or Harry Potter or poets to play.

My husband isn’t a poet and although he has a PhD in American Literature and has been dragged to many poetry readings and (against his will) heard many poems read aloud, he doesn’t immediately like a lot of poetry (a few notable exceptions: Eileen Miles, Joe Wenderoth, Jeffrey McDaniel, Nin Andrews). But my husband takes great pride in knowing more about contemporary American poets than most non-poets do. Knowing the names and a few things about a lot of poets is my husband’s short-cut version of The Journal of Best Practices and asking me to play “Guess My Poet” is his way of saying “OK, fine, let me prove to you that I actually am paying attention in my own way to your bizarrely esoteric world” which I guess is his contemporary American literary version of “Honey, I killed you this buffalo because I didn’t want you to starve to death” or at least “Hey, I notice you got your hair cut.”

The thing is, I can’t avoid getting cheered up when he suggests the game even if it’s an obvious attempt to make up for something thoughtless he’s just done or a way of buttering me up so he can get something. I don’t care—I like the game.

Why am I posting about this? Well, turns out that “Guess My Poet” is relevant to POETRY not just on THE SHORT LIST OF THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY.

Stay tuned for my next post in which I offer some tips, strategies and observations about "Guess My Poet."






Originally Published: April 6th, 2012

Poet and educator Rachel Zucker was born in New York and grew up in Greenwich Village, the daughter of novelist Benjamin Zucker and storyteller Diane Wolkstein. She earned her BA at Yale University and her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.   Zucker’s expansive yet lyrical poems interrogate and deftly...