Alas! Forsooth! A Golden Poet Story!

Dear Waterfall,

Thank you for taking the
Poetry IQ Test.

Your general poetic knowledge is determined by your answers to the objective multiple-choice questions and is presented below. This test of general poetic knowledge does not measure your creativity or have anything to do with your present ability or future potential to write good poetry. It assesses your technical knowledge of poetic structure, form, and technique.

Your General Poetic Knowledge Score is 11 out of a possible 11, meaning that you have an excellent grasp of poetic form, structure, and technique. People at this level have generally taken advanced-level study in literature or have completed advanced poetry courses. They have often spent considerable time writing, developing their own poetic "voice," and their own techniques. People at this level, particularly if they can apply their knowledge of poetic form and structure to their own work, are considered among the most talented of poetic artists.


Your creative potential and poetic flair is determined through a personalized assessment of the poetry you have submitted. This assessment will require some time ... blah blah blah ...


OK, so I was really bored at work yesterday and took the Poetry IQ test over at It asked about theme, puns, rhyme, meter, persona, alliteration, etc. And I got 100% of the questions right. Guess that degree in English was good for something after all!

However, if I wanted to know my score, I had to submit a poem to their big contest. I didn't have a poem, so I made up a bad poem titled, "Contented in Cubicle Land."

I entered a poetry contest one other time, back when I was in tenth grade. I also entered the Avon/Flare novel-writing contest. Those two "entries" released a shower of vanity-press mail ("Publish Your Book!" "Attend Our Seminar!") that wouldn't stop for the rest of my high-school career. I also got a nice rejection letter from Avon/Flare.

I fared better in the poetry contest, though. Those folks sent me a congratulatory letter saying I had won a Golden Poet Award! and that I should come to California where Milton Berle was going to lead the Golden Poets in a parade. And that I should send them money so I could be published in their anthology.

It was only something like $10, and I REALLY wanted to be a Published Author, so I sent the money. I didn't go to California, though. The idea of being in a Golden Poet Parade led by Milton Berle just didn't appeal to me. I had this embarrassing image of us small-town, starry-eyed Golden Poets waving our Golden Poetry Scepters, wearing golden masks (OK, so I grew up in Mardi-Gras Land) and shouting iambic pentameter chants with random interjections of things like "Alas!" and "Forsooth!"

I figured that it was a silly vanity press thing, and that I was probably one of a thousand "Golden Poets." But at least I would get to be in a book.

Now, when I pictured a book of poems, I imagined something like a 30- or 40-page book, small, paperback ... like most books of poems.

Oh, no. When I got this book in the mail (we had to go to the post office to pick it up), I had to carry it with both hands. It was HUGE. It was the size of an encyclopedia. And in the book, in tiny, tiny letters, were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of poems. Poems upon poems. Gads and gazillions.

I found my name in the index and flipped through the bible-thin pages to my poem. There it was. Much to my horror, I realized that my mother had sent the poetry people a picture of me (for an additional fee), and there was my school picture next to the poem. I was mortified. I hadn't taken this thing seriously. I'd figured this was a vanity press. And there was my picture, for all to see. It made me look ... naive. Like someone who'd been sucked into the whole vanity press thing. I dreamed of becoming a Serious Writer someday, but, thanks to my dear, sweet, well-meaning mother, I feared I was destined to die of embarrassment before I ever turned 16.

But my poem was there, and I was proud of that. And it gave me a nice chill to see MY NAME written in the multiple-page "Index of Poets" at the back of the book. Even though, as I decided after reading a few pages, the term "Poets," as used by these publishers, was a very broad one.

Here's the poem that won me the honor of Golden Poet and the chance to wave a golden scepter in a parade led by Milton Berle:

OF WINTER WAVES AND SUMMER SNOW (by me, at age 15 or so)

I, walking through the land I know

Of winter waves and summer snow,

See children, laughing, by the stream

Thinking not of untold dreams

And others chase through its soft waves

To unknown thoughts in tiny caves

And each is different, all diverse

For difference here is not a curse

Distinctiveness is not a flaw

Conformity is ne'er a law

I then edge forward to the brink

Of the children's stream, to take a drink

Yet the water runs dry in my rough hands

Without a word, each child stands

Their eyes do not seem filled with fear--

Yet stare until I disappear

When I am gone, they continue on

In their guilt-forbidden dawn

And I can only dream to know

Of winter waves and summer snow.

(Yes, in case you were wondering, I was really into Emerson and Blake when I was 15.)

Coffee break over Time to get back to work. Ta-ta, everyone!


Stacey said…
I'm in one of those books too! A great huge book with teeny tiny letters! Of course - your poem is considerably better than mine. And mine is all political. I can't remember it though.

Kelly Sharpe said…
I did that, too. My poem was really silly...about getting out of school at the end of the day. I wrote it for a writing assignment in 10th grade - one I had forgotten until the teacher started going up and down the aisles to check to see if we had done our homework. I still remember that my poem was on page 52.

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