I’ve never been much of an exerciser but I’m trying shed some of my winter weight for the summer. I hate gyms with a passion. Could you please make me up a workout routine that doesn’t involve going to the gym, preferably involving poetry? — Sara

 

OK, but you should consult your doctor before starting this or any exercise routine. I’m going to recommend that you exercise at least three times a week — that is the only amount of time I can take a break from my responsibilities to exercise (sorry trainers, yogis, and other health nuts). This plan can easily be doubled, of course:

Day 1:  Jump rope for 15 minutes with the neighborhood kids. If you don’t have neighborhood kids, or all the kids are perennially parked in front of the TV, ask some friends… More…

Why do poets drink so much? Does it help them write better poems? – Nick S.

 

I’m not so sure drinking and writing poetry go hand in hand these days as they used to. Most poets write at the top of the morning while their wits are sharpest, maybe while drinking coffee, which I’m pretty sure is not the “drink” you are implying. As far as alcohol being able to help poets write better poems, I can only say that it doesn’t help me. Maybe it can lead to experiences that will wind up somehow in one of my poems, but I can’t say for sure. Indeed, alcohol helps me do a lot of things, but writing good poems is not one of them.

I doubt that poets drink any more than anyone else in the Americas or… More…

I can’t write poems anymore. I’ve lost all my inspiration, which has been dwindling steadily since I’ve gotten older. When I sit down to write, I think, What’s the point? There’s so many other things to do. Can you help? — Uni

 

It’s hard to measure the value of writing a poem versus the more immediate value of taking out the trash, but I think writing a poem would be greater, in most respects. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take out the trash, that there’s no value in performing such a task. Life is all about balance and…

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m going through such a phase, too. I think all poets and writers go through them. In the meantime, try some poetry exercises so you don’t lose your training — imitations, or translating an existing… More…

I’m trying to eat healthier food. Specifically, I’ve never been big on veggies and I’m trying to eat more of them. I’ve noticed that there are lots of veggies in salsa, I eat a lot of salsa, and so I think I’ve lucked out. My wife thinks I’m nuts, but what’s a poet’s take: Would salsa count as one of my five daily servings of vegetables? — Tim S.

 

I’m hardly a nutritionist, but from what I recall of the food pyramid, there’s a category called “Other,” a gray block with a rain of unwholesome-looking granules instead of pictures of plump animal and vegetable matter. It is located at top of the food pyramid, suggesting, I think, that you should eat these foods only after you’ve accomplished a physical feat, such as climbing a pyramid, when you’re especially… More…

I just started a new graduate program in a new city and I’m feeling lonely. I don’t have anything in common with my colleagues. I started a semester later and most of them are good friends by now. – J

 

The fact that you are in the same graduate program in the same school as your colleagues shows that you all have more in common than you realize right now, but I understand: Entering a program in the spring can make you seem like the odd man (or woman?) out. From my experience, graduate students are pretty eager to see a new face in their classes, so once you get over your fear and start opening up, you’ll realize that you have quite a bit in common with them. By sharing more jokes, hobbies, and stories of turbulent youth,… More…

I always seem to fall for unavailable guys. What can poetry tell me about unrequited love and the (long) wait for the real thing? — S

 

Sometimes I catch a scent of that guy’s cologne — my mind takes off down some turbulent trail I’m ashamed to be on, even for a brief moment of nostalgia, since I am married now. It sounds like you need to pick up a copy of Kim Addonizio’s What Is This Thing Called Love.

“So What?”

Guess what. If love is only chemistry— phenylethylamine, that molecule that dizzies up the brain’s back room, smoky with hot bebop, it won’t be long until a single worker’s mopping up the scuffed and littered floor, whistling tunelessly, each endorphin cooling like a snuffed glass candle, the air stale with memory. So what, you say; outside,… More…

I’m in a long distance relationship with a swell guy and he penned me a poem for my birthday. It was very sweet but also quite bad. Can poetry help me tell him I appreciate the thought but not the actual poem? — Shannon

 

I hope so. But because chat or email can propagate misunderstanding, let me also underscore the importance of using emoticons, smileys or hearts in your case. I’m not sure why that works, especially when you give him a poem — far more nuanced and thoughtful than a colon-hyphen-closed parenthesis mark — but I read somewhere that you should do that in online communications with personal relationships. Anyway, it seemed fitting to look through Ted Kooser’s book, Valentines, where I found a poem that could help you tell him this (though it won’t, unfortunately, do… More…

The only books I buy are poetry books, and I’m very possessive of them. I’ve been thinking of getting an e-reader to be more environmentally friendly. What is your opinion of them? And which one is better for reading poetry, the Kindle or the Nook? — Austin

 

Well, first things first, let me make a disclaimer by announcing that I am not tech-savvy. Here’s what I know:  I got a Nook for Christmas and promptly returned it after discovering how few poetry books I could read (not one contemporary book and limited canonized books). The only allure was that I could read Llama, Llama Red Pajama in color. On the Kindle, however, I discovered that I could read The Best American Poetry anthology for 2008, 2009, 2010, as well as Noose and Hook by Lynn Emanuel and Human… More…

One advantage of having younger friends used to be that they were more cheerful and optimistic than I was.  It seemed then that the decade between us had insulated them from all the bad news I heard, both in the media and from my older friends.  But now that 20 years or so have passed, these friends just about caught up to me.

 

When I said I planned to write about this topic, one of my friends — perky still, though more pessimistic than she used to be — asked me to change her name. She had also told me (whenever I asked) that she doesn’t read what I write because she’s too stressed, so she’ll never know whether or not I’ve changed her name. I’ll honor her wishes anyway and call her Susie. Besides, she might have… More…

Why do so many poets commit suicide? My daughter’s away at college and planning to be a poet. Needless to say, I’m worried. Can you say anything to discourage this trend? — R. D.

 

I once dressed up as Sylvia Plath for a “Dress as Your Favorite Poet” festival. I wore a box painted as an oven over my head. Funny, right? Plath’s dramatic exit from this world has made her the poster child for poets who have committed suicide: John Berryman, Anne Sexton, and more recently, Sarah Hannah — professor at Emerson College, where I received my MFA. Those are only three names swimming in the sea of dead tortured artists — we always use that term, don’t we? We hide the agent by using the passive case, suggesting a flawed psychosis or something else so private… More…