Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stealth poetry

Remember Jeff Foxworthy's old comedy routine, "You might be a redneck"?

He'd sift through circumstantial evidence for which that sentence was the always the punchline ("If you've ever taken a six-pack of beer to a funeral, you might be a redneck...If your daughter's Barbie Dream House has a clothesline in the front of it, you might be a redneck.")

Foxworthy says his definition of "redneck" is "someone with a glorious lack of sophistication," and I like that.

His follow-the-anecdote-to-its-wry-conclusion formula can be applied to other kinds of identification, also. There are probably more poets out there than most of us realize, even if comparatively few people think of themselves as poets, and even fewer people make a living that way.

I think you can tell "stealth poets" by their markings. I don't know of any comprehensive field guide to identifying that species, but here are a few utterly subjective and improvised clues:

If you've ever woken up to a day when a thin scrim of cloud filters sunlight that is partially diffused but wholly beautiful, you might be a poet.

If you've ever made a U-turn just to take a photo of crepe myrtle flowering in red and purple near the road, you might be a poet.

If you deliberately wear your heart on your sleeve around people whom you trust, because the emotionally reserved alternative seems like a recipe for missed opportunity, you might be a poet.

If the song "You Don't Know Me" still seems especially poignant, then you know why Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and Michael Buble all covered it, and you might be a poet.

If while singing hymns, you sometimes substitute words to improve scansion, you might be a poet.

If you talk to wild rabbits even when you're sober, you might be a third-order Franciscan -- or a poet.

If you've ever actually watched clouds for more than a few seconds, you might be a poet.

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