I was one of the fortunate participants at the Evansville Coffeehouse Poetry Night, an annual event held on April 25, 2013. This event is a down-home mix of poets and readers and poetry appreciators–often all in the same person. Kevin Zepper touched the audience with his “Used Poem.” The LRWN blog by writers about writing for writers seems to me an appropriate place to share this gem.
~Sonja Kosler, LRWN Vice-President
by Kevin Zepper
After many long miles, my poem finally gave out. What can you expect of a poem after fifteen years of hard driving? Not to say that I overworked the poem or anything. I didn’t try to rod on it, peel out with it. I filled it with premium metaphors, never settling for less, changed the punctuation every couple of thousand miles. No different from the next poet.
It served me well, but its time had come. It took too long getting started in the morning. On several occasions this past winter I had to jump start it with cables attached to another poem. Sometimes the battery in the poem was so far gone I had to plug it into an anthology overnight just to get it to spark the next morning.
The poem also showed peculiarities that I couldn’t just let slide any longer. Sometimes I’d just be cruising along, line after line, no problems, poem just purring away. Then it would start cutting out, right in the middle of a scan, cack, cack, cack, then purring again like nothing was ever wrong. But the rhythm was off. A belt was going bad. It was also burning more and more punctuation at an alarming rate. I’d have to add two quarts of metrics to the little manifold to insure a straight read through. Even then the poem blew clouds of blue smoke.
Guess the real trouble started about two years ago, after the accident. My poem got rear ended by a drunk guy with a rock song lyric. Yeah, he had a beater of lyric too: no insurance, nothing. Here I am with a poem all smashed to hell in the rear end, and a bent frame to boot. It took a Linguist and an English professor to pull out all the dents. They did the best they could with it. You know how it is with a poem wreck, though; once you’ve had an accident with your poem, it never reads the same again.
So here I am, reading through the used poetry section of the paper. I can’t really afford to get a new one. You never know what kind of abuse a used poem has taken. Could have been rodded on, stripped down, or rolled, who knows? I just hope I find a sonnet owned by a little old blue-haired lady. Someone like that would really know how to take care of a poem, always reading it slow and only on Sundays, taking it for regular grammar and simile maintenance, putting in the right metaphors to keep the engine from punning. Whether I find a good used poem or not, it’s always tough trading in a poem you’ve reliably read for so long.
Author’s Bio.: Kevin Zepper, an Associate Professor of English at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, is the author of four chapbooks. His fourth and most recent chapbook, Sugartown, was published by Finishing Line Press <https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product_info.php?products_id=199>. It is also available through Amazon.com <http://www.amazon.com/Sugartown-Kevin-Zepper/dp/1599249820> . He is currently circulating his first book-length manuscript, ghostworlds, and he was recently awarded a writing residency at Starry Night Artist Retreat in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. He resides in Moorhead, Minnesota with his wife, boys and Bichons.