What is a poem?
Music? Yes — an ode to joy, a funeral dirge, a marching song, or a sunrise celebration … if I call it a poem, it is a poem! Some cultures sometimes have demanded adherence to strict rules of composition, but not in America anymore. Anyone can join and usually does.
Then, what is a poet? Some confusion, some inclusion. Many are called — few yet published, fewer still paid for their work. This does not matter — if no editor (and there are hundreds) will share the work, hundreds — yea even thousands of groups gather to listen patiently to each other, to criticize gently and to confirm personal myths — “I am a poet in this room and therefore you are a poet here; maybe not quite as skilled, as profound, as I, but a true, self-designated, poet.”
What will happen in this column, so graciously granted by the editors of this undoubtedly best, most literate, twice-weekly Independent? This is a simple proposition … My position, my prejudices, my judgment — I am the bottleneck through which your poems must squeeze — no committee, no collaboration, no external controls — just what I like and want to share. So, you are at my mercy! Twice a month for the next hundred years, I will be the judge.
But let’s be realistic and nice. If you won’t give me a chance, I’ll have no material, and I truly want to give our readers an opportunity to read our best efforts. Then simply enough, the poet must be conscious of her role in society — to celebrate life in all its aspects rhythmically.
We’ll have to deal with my prejudices but those prejudices will be enlightened by your responses. Poems from members of the Otter Creek Poets and the Poetry Society of Vermont will get the first consideration for obvious practical reasons — my milieu — but I will be eager to invite others in.
Finally, a bottom-line requirement. Your poem must show that you worked hard on it. ’Tis a fact, there are no muses singing out there. Poems do not come in the ear and out the pen unedited. A poem is the result of inspiration first and hard work finally.
I will also need a bio, very short, which will be put in with your poem, and contact material must be submitted. There are no copyright issues, just your personality and desire for fans. I will submit my poem first and then promise many of yours in the months to come.
Send your work to me at Leonard Gibbs, 5181 Jersey St., Panton, VT 05491.
Since all must die
so must I die
And when I die,
so dies the universe.
And yet I know I lie.
Though I have fantasized the galaxies,
Creations of my credulous mind,
One touch wipes out my arrogance;
The clasp of newborn fingers
On my fingertip
Creates a truth
— Leonard Gibbs