Monday, August 10, 2009

Feature: Mike Finley Day 2


I don't want to share anything with you,
I want to be alone late at night,
I want to drink until I'm dry,
I want to make secret journeys down the dank streets
where married men don't venture,
I want rooms of clinking crystal
and appreciative smiles,
jokes tumbling from my lips
like silvery grunions
slapping in moonlight.
I don't want to carry groceries in from the car,
groceries I will never eat,
go for endless walks that take us nowhere,
rub your back when mine is killing me,
I want to sleep forever under sparkling snows and dream of ballgames and girlfriends
and the years of goodtimes
before this dagger snaked its way into my breast,
I am afraid of waters and doctors
and the look on your face when you are in trouble.
I want to undo everything, erase my assent,
irradiate my sperm, run off to a nation that is beaches only,
that welcomes heels and celebrates desertion
and whose official flower is the beget-me-not.

And yet ...
to be father
of this melon thing in you
with all its sweet red stuff, and seeds and rind,
is a grand endeavor, and I see plainly in your eyes that this is your wish
and because I am your slave by heart
I accept the full penalty, let them come,
let them swarm on me like ticks,
I will bounce them and change them
and wipe them clean as if they were my own
and all the while knowing
where once there was life
is now only children,
and the windblown fluff
that was once my hide
is all that remains
of a boy who loved to play.

Artwork and Poetry © Mike Finley

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Interview Question

What advice would you give beginning poets?


Robert Bly liked being surrounded by younger poets, and they benefited from his presence, but every now and then he would get irritable and tell them all to go climb trees and leave him alone for two years.

When you are young is when you are drunk on art, and full of desire. And desire makes art but is also its number one enemy.

How do you tell some intense young person that the very fire that makes them burn is also keeping them from growing?

Let me suggest:

Hate yourself – don't think you are necessarily great at this. Don't think there is anything special about making stuff up. You're this far from being very pathetic.

Love yourself – the world has been given to you to live in and observe. Strike a balance. Live, observe. In the end, only you will know the sound of your own voice.


  1. I love this poem.. and Mike, your advice is great ..

  2. Someone has observed that a continuing theme of my poems is a kind of funny, over-the-top self-pity. Like here, it's oh, poor boy who wanted to play, now he has to change all those diapers. I think it's a good criticism, and I think I am prone to this ill-advised emotional. But ... and this is an admittedly shaky defense ... it always strikes me as funny. You know, in life we all tend to keep making the same mistake, and catching ourselves. I think mine is this kind of self-absorption. I can't seem to shake it entirely, I can at least make fun of it, and blunt its worst effects.

  3. who really is homeless and cannot relate to this theme at all
    and yet who can applaude your taking it on (avey)salute very strong

  4. I want to go deeper with a remark John Burroughs made, about "bad poems" in our notebooks.

    When we write, we fail a lot. Often these failures are just things that don't ripen and get good. "False starts."

    But there are other failures that are actually dangerous to us as writers, and perhaps to readers as well. They are bad ideas, with power:

    * When we play to easy emotions, like rabble rousers. (I am thinking of a million "Reagan sucks" poems from the old days.)

    * When we sentimentalize, self-pity, blame, hate, caricaturize others, trivialize. You could write an essay about each of these sins, and how it lies about reality.

    * When me is represent our own thoughts and ideas, "cut corners" to please readers.

    * When we appropriate the pain of others and adopt it as our own -- a very common and very harmful act of egotism.

    * When a poem clings to a habit or customary temptation of ours that we need to outgrow as artists and as persons.

    Look into your own notebook, or heart -- and ask yourself which things are harmful to you. Everyone's got 'em.

    These are the poems we need to take out and shoot -- because they are often some of our best-written things, and because they are pleasing, they may become our conduit to readership. And they wind up stunting our growth, because people sometimes applaud the wrong things.

    But these bad poems are messed up, and they are not our friends as writers or as persons. I think they should be set on fire and the ashes hosed away.

    It stands to reason that if poetry has power -- the power of memorability -- then bad poems have evil power.

    That's why I value the delete button!

  5. Well I've tried to post a comment here twice earlier in the day. With no luck..

    I'll be back.. But I'm loving your stuff Mike...

  6. Cx

    "When me is represent" = When we misrepresent

  7. Very good thoughts Mike... something I will have to think over. Thanks!

  8. I also wanted to say that I don't get the over the top self pity criticism.

    Some poems are a reflection of a subject and what this poem reflects is the fact that we as human beings have conflicting feelings all the time and in this case yours was about growing up and facing responsibility.

    There is nothing wrong with poetry that causes us to think about our inner natures. I like this poem because it is human and real.

    What you also have to remember is that poetry in general is open to the reader's interpretation and that is based on their own experience and the place that are at in their own personal growth at the time they read the poem. What a reader gets from a poem one day may be different a year from now etc...

    I like to compare it to looking at a painting. Sometimes you get exactly what the artist intended and other times you see things the artist could never have imagined was there.

    In my opinion that does not make a poem bad, but it makes it even better when the reader can make it their own.

    Just my thoughts... :-)

  9. I do like the way your poems blast oblique preamble here! Things just go. I enjoyed the poem, even if I'm one of those readers who prefers swirling, ricocheting figures of speech that tumble everywhere and rearrange my mind for a spell. As distinct from unrelenting matter-of-factness. Just the cut of my jib.

    But sometimes that here-it-is language can effect a little psychedelic explosion (especially when juiced by one well-chosen metaphor):

    I want rooms of clinking crystal
    and appreciative smiles,
    jokes tumbling from my lips
    like silvery grunions
    slapping in moonlight.

    You have captured with exactness a permanent feature of my soul. I'm soothed to know that the exquisite torment of this vision is shared by another.

  10. Yeah, you can want it, but you probably ain't gonna get it!

    When I lived in Milwaukee I was part of a couvade study ( which was all about the big step dads take as the birth of a child nears. Their new job is to be protectors.

    In some cultures men put on dresses and live in a hut faraway, attracting demons to them to spare the mother.

    Men don't have the physical connection to the baby that the mom has -- so they have to improvise emotionally. It isn't pretty to watch, but there is a kind of courage about it, as boys put away their toys and become men.