The Dr. Is In

in Poetry

Dr. Wes

Writers Writing Wrongly

Many people seem to have gotten the impression that yours truly must be the poetry editor for the Real Change. They write letters to me that begin "Dear Poetry Editor" and ask me to please see that their latest septina or paean to the changing seasons or a pantoum they wrote in college gets printed in the Real Change. They usually end with "sincere thanks", or an equivalent.

In fact, the other editors won't let me be poetry editor. For example Anitra Freeman, on whose kitchen floor I have slept, says to the idea: "Yeah, right." Similarly Stan Burriss, editor and poet who frequents these pages, has responded with: "not in this life, buddy".

The only such role the editorial board has seriously considered offering to me is that of "bad writing editor", making me Keeper of the Round File, based on my demonstrated proficiency in the genre.

I was reflecting on all of this recently, oh about half an hour ago, right after I noticed that I had a column to write by the morning and the bars were all closed. It occurred to me that we all write badly at times but that not all of us are able to be truly awful on a regular basis.

Or are we? Is there, out there in the world, on the streets - you know, apart from this office - a vast untapped potential for bad writing that we weren't aware of?

After all, it's a matter of will rather than talent. Is the will there? This inspired the following brief unscientific quiz intended to flush out the will to write badly.

Bad Writing Quiz

1. Choose the statement that seems most accurate.
a) In order to begin writing, the tunes have to be so cranked up you can't hear yourself think.
b) You have to ply yourself with liquor (or chocolate, or whatever) first.
c) You never remember starting to write. You just wake up in a ditch in Tukwila next to a manuscript. The manuscript is in your own handwriting.
d) You have never even seen your writing. Your writing personality refuses to share his/her memories or thoughts with your normal personality.
e) Other ____.

2. You have written (check all that apply):
a) a love sonnet
b) a sex sonnet
c) an S&M sonnet
d) a stalking sonnet
e) a free-love sonnet (with extra lines)
f) all of the preceding.

3. Which best expresses your attitude toward rhyme in poetry?
a) It happens. Get over it. Get on with your life.
b) Poets who never rhyme are state enemies. They seek to rip apart our country's social and moral fabric.
c) Poets who always rhyme lines are fascists.
d) Other ___.

4. For the purpose of this question, imagine that you belong to a writers' workshop, whether you do or not. Which would characterize your involvement?
a) You would facilitate the meetings.
b) You would dominate the meetings.
c) As soon as the meeting starts, you would go to the bathroom and not come out until it was over.
d) Other ___.

5. When you speak you find that (choose one):
a) people hear you but don't listen.
b) people want to jot down every word, to cherish your words forever.
c) people leave the room.
d) None of the above. You don't notice what other people do.
e) All of the above.

Quick and easy scoring: If you answered "other" or "all of the above" in almost every case, you not only are capable of writing badly all the time, but you probably would prefer to, and all you need is to find somebody to print your stuff. Good luck!

Prolonged painful agonizing scoring: mail your answers to me, Dr. Wes Browning, at 2129 Second Ave. Seattle, WA, 98121, and, down the road, when I can't think of anything else to write about, I may evaluate your quiz in excruciating depth and print my conclusions. So be sure to include your full legal name, address, phone number and hope I don't use it. . .

© Dr. Wes Browning:

2129 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247

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