I’ve been thinking a lot about the words “inclusive” and “exclusive.”
It is my fear that people consider poetry an exclusive art—poetry often coming across as portentous and intentionally elusive. I fear people personify poetry as a snob; I think this mislabeling comes from poetry’s exclusion from our primary educations.
It is my dream that one day people will think of poetry as poop—we all do it. Some of us, like Charles Bukowski, seem do it more and with grater passion than others, but that doesn’t mean pooping excludes us. I feel poetry and poop are equally essential to our existence; there is no better sign for life than pooping and poetry.
This New Year’s day, my son and I went for a nature hike in the high desert. The ranger was young and full of gusto; she let out a happy yelp when she discovered scat on our trail. Taking the dry animal waste in hand, she carefully messaged out the pearly sheen of a muskrat’s jaw. She let my son hold the little row of teeth; the molars shined like little jewels left for us by a coyote. Needless to say, my potty-training son was delighted. Poop is important.
An equally important discovery for my son on this trip was the smell of desert rain hidings in the leave of a Creosote plant—the guide referred to this smell as poetry. My son crushed the leaves to make his hands smell like rain—saying, I’m a storm now mommy. My son smelled like poetry—he smelled like life.
Life doesn’t always smell nice; poetry is willing to grapple with the spectrum of scents. It is often said that a poem is either about life or death. Perhaps the subject of death is what makes poetry seems elusive. Perhaps poetry about life—about poop—is what makes it seem like such an inclusive art form to me.
To help with the inclusion of poetry in our world, JJ and I left poems about bathrooms in bathrooms. It was easier than I anticipated to find bathroom poems. We made toilet shaped cards with poems by Bukowski, Blake, and Kooser. These are poets who seemed focused on the functions of life. I love and admire their work for its accessibility and charm.
I think writing a poem about life is far more difficult than writing about death. Death allow for an easy out—we don’t know what death is, so we can morph into whatever metaphor we want. A “life” poem (and “poet”) have the difficult task of capturing the moment in all its layered (and concrete detailed) glory.
Along with the greats of the “life” poets, I included poems from the first book JJ every received, Flushed, The Scoop on Poop by Charise Mericle Harper. Flushed in a collection of rhyming poems that relay the history of pooping. JJ loves this book. I love this book. We giggle together over lines such as these:
I also made sure to include the poems of Rick Bursky; he is the master at writing “life” poems. His book Death Obscura uses loss as a catalyst for pursuing life. Every moment of his book is fresh and immediate. He shows life as the surprise we all should have seen coming. I love this book; it makes me laugh and sob simultaneously. (If that isn’t the shit, I don’t know what is.)
Please enjoy our potty pictures (JJ was the camera man on most of these photos). Also enjoy a sneak peek of Rick Bursky’s poem, The Waiting from the book Death Obscura: