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On Becoming a Poet in the 1950s
There was love and there was trees. Either you could stay inside and probe your emotions or you could go outside and keenly observe nature. Describe the sheen on carapaces, the effect of breeze on grass. What's the fag doing now? Dad would say. Picking the nose of his heart? Wanking off on a daffodil? He's not homosexual, Mom would retort, using her apron as a potholder to remove the apple brown betty from the oven. He's sensitive. He cares. He wishes to impart values and standards to an indifferent world. Wow! said Dad, stomping off to the pantry for another scotch. Two poets in the family. Ain't I a lucky duck? As fate would have it, I became one of your tweedy English teachers, what Dad would call a daffodil-wanker, and Mom ended up doing needlepoint, seventy-two kneelers for St. Fred's before she expired of the heart broken on the afternoon that Dad roared off with the Hell's Angels. We heard a little from Big Sur. A beard. Tattoos. A girlfriend named Strawberry. A boyfriend named Thor. Bars and pot and coffeehouses, stuff like that. After years of quotation by younger poets, admiration but no real notice, Dad is making the anthologies now. Critics cite his primal rage, the way he nails Winnetka.