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if a poet on a winter’s night – introduction


if a poet on a winter’s night – introduction

If writing poetry is the first indication of becoming a poet, I suppose I arrived years ago. In my 20s I founded a small press. Chapbooks of poetry. And two zines. City Rant – urban rough poems from poets around the world, and The Icarus Review – for literate poems curated by me. I lost money on every poetic venture. I stopped the fantasizing and went to work in advertising. I did not write for the firm. I designed pages before the web. Quark Express and kerning. Adobe Illustrator. Typography and minor corrections.

I felt that writing for ads would kill my actual writing skills. I’m not certain of this, but I’m not aware of my ad writing friends who spend a lot of extra time writing for fun.

Writing For Fun

I had a very literate and creative mom. She is the template for my words, songs, and images. My oldest sister, a rising star, followed the path: singer, dancer, painter. She couldn’t handle complications. In her early 30s, she lept to her death on Christmas day. No presents. Full stop.

My mom, always encouraged us kids to find our own way to entertain ourselves. I drew pictures. Played word games. I remember the scene when I learned to read a Dick and Jane book, running from the school bus to my grandmother’s house on the lake. “I can read. I can read. Listen.”

I think I’m still that little boy. Not a lot of readers. Still a ton of enthusiasm, energy, and optimism.  I have been writing for fun as soon as I learned what that meant. I wrote poems. Short stories. Drew covers for Top Secret Journals. Elaborate designs, with carefully drawn letters, “DO NOT OPEN!!!!!”

I was given the gift of entertaining myself.

Je moi muse.

And here I am, still clickity clicking out words. My first laptop liberated my mobile speed writing. I still love blank books and a Uniball Vision Pro Black 0.5. I leave notes, postits, printouts all over my house, car, backpack. I buy books daily. I’ll never be able to spend enough time to read the ones I have. But I am comforted by books. Others books. And today, my own books.

Discovering Poetry

I have not been discovered. That could be a good thing. I have been spinning up books without criticism or enthusiastic readers. I’ve had partners who glaze over when I try and read them a poem. I understand. Poetry, for most people, was kindergarten homework. Then middle school reading comprehension. And, if you went on to college, perhaps a study of poetry and the greats. I did all that. I unlocked a poetic brain. A creative brain. Visual communications. Language. Letters. The meaning of words. The alt.meaning of words. I have 20 or so terms coined in the Urban Dictionary. I’m a word guy.

I’m also a sound guy. The sound of poetry intrigues me. I was doing some research online this morning, about poetry in America. It’s very low on the list. I thought, “Oh wait, what about Audible?” Nope. Hardly anything. A handful of collections of the great poets read by someone or other. And TWO popular audiobooks of poetry read by the poet themselves. TWO! Two? Okay, we’ve lost a bit of context here. Poetry in fact does not matter. Poetry is child’s play. A language experiment where we learn to play with syntax, how to break it. First we’ve got to learn the rules. Then we can fuck with them.

I like the word fuck and motherfucker a lot. Not so good in my poetry. But, well, I embrace my mfkr side. And I bow to your mfkr side too, motherfuckerly.

How & Why Poetry Is Important

Aside from the elementary through college education about poets and poetry, there’s something more fundamental, in my opinion, about why poetry is important. In the moment, where AI is beginning to explode into our lives, poetry may be the most important part of our humanity. A place where AI’s are confused and cannot compute. Not yet, anyway.

I live in a world of tech (where I have made my living since failing at being a small press publisher). I have written a 2,000-page website alongside ChatGPT and another writer. We learned what AI was good at. Mostly, we edited the results. Rewrote most of it. And kept getting better at our requests and prompts.

What AI can’t get is the human connection to words, feelings, and … poems. They do not compute. They are masters at limericks. But that is not really poetry, it’s a mathematical magic trick using letters and rhyming schemes. I’m talking about creative human expression. The expression of the word “loss” for example. How does an AI find meaning and content to a word like loss? (I’d jump into my tech mode and show you, by example, but I’ll stay on my current trajectory.)


A word that triggers so many human emotions in your brain and neural chemistry, that it’s beyond your comprehension. It’s instant. It’s LLLM is exponentially larger than the biggest storage repository. And the flash of human meaning:emotion:chemicals happens beneath the surface of your consciousness. Just that word triggers human emotions and memories that scientists are just beginning to understand. And like an LLM, a few of these recollections, dreams, images, will come to your mind, your conscious mind. The strength of the emotional weight of the self-prompt will determine which one or two concepts form into your thoughts about the word. Just a word.

No large language model can take that leap with you. Even with all the written words of history, no interpreter in logic, math, and generative models, can begin to fathom the depth of the human mind. The word “loss” is one of my favorite gestalts.

This collection is beginning on Leap Day 2024. February 29, 2024. My hope is that you will find some surprises, some tears, and some human truth in these collected poems.



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