Becoming the Living Poet

My Tribute To Lorrie Moore

Posted on: May 1, 2009

In theory I’m finishing that scholarship essay tonight, but I’m doing my usual habit of writing past the maximum word count without having answered the whole prompt.

I wrote an intro paragraph which isn’t going to work for the essay, but sounds a lot like the beginning of my favorite short story, How to Become a Writer by Lorrie Moore. If you haven’t read it you simply must.

The link with the story transcript has typos which are errors made by the typist, not by Lorrie Moore (perish the thought). If you want to read the immaculately perfect version of the story you should buy Moore’s short story collection, Self Help. You should probably buy it anyway because pretty much all of the other stories in the same collection are nearly as, if not equally brilliant.

Here’s my unintentional tribute to Lorrie Moore. The poet’s version of How to Become a Writer:

In the beginning no one chooses to be a poet. Poetry chooses you and you start writing poetry. If you start young enough, initially at least, your teachers will praise you for it and ask you to read your poems in front of the class. The class will politely clap and you will feel good about this because it means that you now have a talent. You’ll smile and blush. Then the school day will end and you’ll go off by yourself to write more poems. At first your mother will be proud of your poems. Maybe she’ll even put a few on the refrigerator because she’ll think that the fact that you write poems means that you’re smart. But eventually she’ll start to think that spending hours alone in the park writing poems is a little strange and the pride will gradually be replaced by concern. She’ll express this concern in pointed questions about why you don’t have more friends. If you’re very lucky this whole poetry thing will turn out to be a phase. It will usually fade at the onslaught of puberty, and certainly by the time you’re ready to go away to college you’ll have forgotten this silly poetry habit. If you haven’t forgotten, then that’s when the trouble will start.


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