How to pen a failure is a question you may ask —
or at least, it may be pondered, an unprinted, unread one;
this, I will allow, is not the easiest task —
but, I will grant you, modestly, ’tis something I have done.
You start with a thought, then apply to it wheels —
insert some scrambled eggs & omit all common sense;
if you seek obscurity, I’ll tell you what appeals —
literary allusions with no hint of sapience.
Shakespeare is a start, better yet Boccaccio —
take the road to Xanadu, where hipsters have all perished;
veer suddenly to Pope, & add a footnote just for show (see below) —
vaunt your erudition, your career is soon extinguished.
Which reminds me, antediluvian argot is so taboo —
especially when it’s orotund & 18th centuryish;
if you wish the public to wholly ignore you —
break out that fustian cant so your manuscript goes squish.
Need I mention, what will doom you is the rhyme —
“Corny & outmoded!” scoffeth every editor;
indent your lines in stanzas, now that is quite the crime —
be jovial & metric, that’ll add to your disaster.
Or, courting utmost obloquy, invoke the dreaded word —
“Love” it is, & writing that, the critics will turn mean;
“Sentimental mush!” they’ll chaff, & justice will be swerved —
put it in a sonnet &, next stop, the guillotine.
Or, if you have the mettle, inject some punctuation —
keep the reader guessing what exactly’s your intention;
em dashes will annoy ’em; so, too, the semi-colon —
&, just for fun, use commas to disgruntle everyone.
Levity, in general, will incur severe abuse —
pedagogues are plagued by jokes, they think them most uncouth;
meter is a no-no, it’s as “cool” as Dr. Seuss —
but Clarity is worse, they’ll string you up for it, forsooth.
It’s complicated to predict what gets a REJECT best —
too much emotion, not enough; too universal, or abstruse;
if you feel distressed, I can help (at your behest) —
it’s not the line-count, or the style, that, in the end, will cook your goose.
If you wish to write a poem that will never once get read —
follow these instructions & you’re guaranteed a smash:
have a brain of feathers, and a heart of lead¹ —
think you know-it-all — & say so with panache.
¹Alexander Pope, The Dunciad.
CRAIG KURTZ resides at Twin Oaks Intentional Community where he writes poetry while simultaneously surviving the dream. Recent work has appeared in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Burningword Literary Journal, Drunk Monkeys, Maudlin House, The Penmen Review, Teeth Dreams and Veil: A Journal of Darker Musings.