Saturday, July 14, 2007

Guidelines for Middle-Aged Poets

Well, I always like to give others the benefit of my experience...

1. Never write a poem about being middle-aged. No one will take you seriously.

2. Establish in people’s minds that you are three-quarters of the way down your poetic career path, even if you have no idea what, or where, that is.

3. You must allude to contemporary song lyrics at least four times per collection. And once per conversation. This doesn’t mean you actually have to listen to music.

4. Abstain from alcohol, but take every opportunity to mention how heavily you drank the night before.

5. No matter how old you become, your bio photo must have been taken when you were under thirty-five. Or use someone else’s photo.

6. If you are married, refer to your spouse as your ‘partner’ and talk uninhibitedly about your love life.

7. If you are unattached, sleep around. Or at least say you’re sleeping around. If you repeat anything, people will believe it. Cultivate an ambiguous sexuality.

8. Invent stories about how a poem got you laid. Never tell exactly the same story twice. Even better, write a poem about how a poem got you laid. Have it translated into a dozen languages.

9. Joke often about loose-fitting pullovers, bald patches/stretch-marks, and dieting. Never write poems on these subjects.

10. Cultivate two accents for podcasts and performances: ‘smart-arse cockney’ and ‘Hollywood movie-trailer’. But use only one per occasion.

11. If you catch yourself opening a supermarket magazine, you must purchase a violent video game and play it until you drive your fist through the computer screen.

12. Never use the word ‘crisis’ of yourself. But use it liberally to describe friends of a similar age, especially other poets.

13. When referring to your ‘contemporaries’, include only poets at least a decade younger than yourself.

14. Refer to the strong influence of da da and the early 20th century Russian avant-garde on your work. Shake your head at the mere mention of ‘concrete poetry’. Wear dark glasses in bars and cafés.

15. Never choose clothes or sport a hairstyle corresponding to the decade in which you felt happiest. Unless that time is now. Which it won’t be.


Jane Holland said...

I have achieved almost everything on this list and so can rest easy in my forty .... ahem ... thirty-something poethood.

You can decide which ones on the list I haven't done.


Anonymous said...

My poetic mental age is 18. But in 'poetry years', I am 123. I need help. On the plus side, people have recently stopped referring to me as 'promising'. At least I think that's on the plus side!


Colin Will said...

I'm not sure how you define middle-aged Rob. However, looking at your list, I seem to have avoided all of the pitfalls. That's somewhat cheering, but I've decided to write a poem which incorporates all of your improper suggestions.

Rob said...

Jane, I wouldn't like to speculate what you haven't done...

Roddy, someone somewhere is now compiling an online quiz where poets can calculate their poetic mental age. It must be good not to be 'promising' any more.

Colin, middle-age is hard to define, although I think I am middle-aged. But remember - if you write the poem - you will be breaching guideline number 1. The catalyst for this list was a poem I wrote a few days ago called "Middle Age", so you won't be alone.

James Midgley said...

I have the strong suspicion that I was middle-aged by the time I hit 15.

I often, when referring to my contemporaries, refer to toddlers.


Rhea said...

Thanks. I am always on the lookout for advice for middle-aged people. I write a blog for baby boomers (U.S.).

Rob said...

James - I hear toddlers are the new forty-somethings, so you might be spot on.

Rhea - I didn't know there was any such thing as a boomer blog, but your entertaining blog and its huge list of links has shown me otherwise. As long as you don't take my advice at all seriously, you'll be fine.

Ms Baroque said...

Rob, hilarious! Brilliant.

BTW, the other thing is: NEVER include your birth year in a bio. Do it even once and all is lost, because it's then on the record.

Ms Baroque said...

Oh and by the way. Linked.

Rob said...

Thanks for the link, Katy. I might extend the guidelines to 20 (I like the birth year one, and your comments on children have given me new ideas), although I've no idea what to do with them except stick them on this blog. I suppose that's as good a use for them as any.