How can I be cool like a poet? — A. H.

 

You’ve got to be kidding me. Most poets I know would not be classified as cool (except maybe Kim Addonizio — she’s pretty chic). But, you asked, so let’s see what we can discover from Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool”:

We real cool. We Left school. We

Lurk late. We Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We Die soon.

If you want to be cool like a poet, do the opposite of what the plural speaker does in this poem. First and foremost, stay in school. In fact, stay in school as long as you can. Take out student loans that you will be paying off for the rest of your life to do so. Second, get the recommended seven to eight… More…

I keep losing my keys!  I mindlessly carry them around with me after I get home and put them in the most unlikely places. Can poetry do anything to ameliorate my problem? — Claire C.

 

I think so. Let me tell you about something I did once. When I moved into my apartment, the previous residents left some dining room chairs out by the dumpster, and since I had been using lawn chairs around my kitchen table, I eagerly snatched them up. They looked OK — a natural wood-finished seat supported by white metal legs and backs — but not nice enough for me to resist the temptation to decorate them. I cut out lots of poems that I have received as hand outs and using a craft product called Modge Podge (basically white glue that saturates the… More…

My girlfriend and I have had a serious relationship for about five years. The both of us lack significant dating experience, so recently we decided to make it an “open” relationship. We’ve both been dating other people, but I’m starting to feel weird about it. I think my girlfriend likes this arrangement, but I want to go back to the way things used to be. Can poetry help? — Mr. S

 

Yes, poetry can help!  Poetry can help you convince your girlfriend to return to the more traditional relationship, but poetry can also help you accept this arrangement — it depends on what you’re looking for. I found some poems by the 15th-century Indian poet Kabir in The Kabir Book: Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir translated by Robert Bly that could argue for both sides. I’ll begin with… More…

I’m a physical therapist who just moved to Boston. I’ve been invited to a Halloween party in which every attendee must dress up as a villain and I’m having a hard time deciding on a costume. Can you help? — Erin

 

I love costume parties! I always appreciate a subtle costume, so how about dressing up as the speaker from Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess”?

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands. Will ‘t please you sit and look at her? I said? ‘Frà Pandolf’ by design, for never read Strangers like you that pictured countenance, The depth and passion of its earnest glance, But to myself they turned (since none… More…

My friend’s son just died. He was only 10 years old. It happened so suddenly that my friend can barely understand her grief or how to cope with it. I want to help her, but I don’t know how. Sadly, I don’t think words can help in this situation. — Kay

 

Maybe some time needs to pass, but I think one day you’ll see that words can console in even the saddest situations. Right now, for your friend especially, the world is simply too cruel — it can’t possibly offer anything redemptive. And she’s right: The world is not just, and she should grieve. She should not be scouring books of poetry for something that will help her cope, and neither should you, not right now. What you can do as a friend is give her space to… More…

I’m addicted to the idiot box (television). Help! — Dan K.

 

I must say, I’m intrigued by your metaphor for television. It demonstrates both television’s power over you and your manipulability — the television has the power to make you an idiot and you are an idiot when you watch it. Now, I’m only good at coming up with drastic measures to cure addictions, so I’m probably not the best person to ask for help about a cure (I originally began my response with suggestions to pawn your TV set or gouge your eyes out) but what I can do is help you change your metaphor. What if you started calling your TV “history buff box”? Soon enough, you might find yourself only watching the History channel and writing a 10-page response that compares the historical era… More…

I’ve always had pets, but the guys I’m rooming with in college aren’t animal lovers and don’t want one in the apartment. I want a dog, but even a less traditional animal, such as a turtle or even a fish, would be OK with me. Can a poem help out in this situation? — Mike C.

 

Most certainly. I’m thinking not only of a poem but of a whole book of poems, The Truro Bear by Mary Oliver. It’s a wonderful book of poems with animals as subjects, everything from possums to dogs to turtles.

“Turtle”

Now I see it— it nudges with its bulldog head the slippery stems of the lilies, making them tremble; and now it noses along in the wake of the little brown teal

who is leading her soft children from one side of… More…

I used to write and read poems often when I was in college, but now I have a demanding job and a family with three kids. I’m just too busy these days, and I fear that poetry has become a thing of my past. How can a regular guy bring more poetry into his life without dedicating hours of scholarship? –James

 

PoetryDaily.com, VerseDaily.com, Poets.org, and probably lots of other sites include a poem each day on their webpage. You can sign up to have poems e-mailed directly to you, and if you find the time between this or that obligation, you could read them. You may not have time to read a poem every day, but two a week is certainly better than no poems at all. Or if your inbox is already too full, you could buy… More…

I am trying to simplify my life and am especially ridding myself of extraneous “stuff.” Can you help inspire me with a poem? — Ella

 

I empathize with you, Ella, as I’ve been trying to do the same thing for quite some time. I’m one of those people who likes to save every ticket stub, receipt, and postcard — as if these things will somehow compensate for my poor memory — which necessitates memory boxes and scrapbooks that pile up year after year, and if I don’t have the time to put them into a scrapbook or memory box, they stay crammed in a corner of my desk competing for imperative with the pile of bills I need to pay. So, I understand, and even if your “stuff” is different than my “stuff,” we both could learn a great deal… More…

Is online dating weird? I don’t like the idea of it at all. Relying on technology for something so primitive and organic as meeting and wooing a woman goes against every Romantic and idealistic sentiment I possess. Also, there are some weird people out there. On the other hand, I am realizing that it might be my only option since the computers are taking over our brains and this is apparently how people meet now. What do the sages have to say on that topic? — Rafael van der Vaart

 

We all fear the unknown, so a lot of people would label online dating as weird. But I don’t think it is. I know and have heard about a lot of couples united through online dating services, and I don’t think that using one would contradict any Romantic… More…