Who Moved My Iambic Pentameter?


April is National Poetry Month, yet despite the best efforts of poet laureates, poetry slammers and celebrity authors such as Jewel and Jimmy Carter, poetry remains, as it has for years, a tiny blip on the screen of American consciousness, less important to how we live today than patchouli, say, or lint.

A brief tour of your average Barnes and Noble will provide all the evidence we need of poetry's obscurity. For while shelves and shelves are set aside for the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, or for books promoting the management of your anger, weight, money, sexuality, menopause, child, dog, etc., thousands of years of world poetry usually rate a couple of shelves stuck in a corner.

It's a sad thing, and furthermore, it's an unnecessary thing, because long before there were books guiding us through every hope and fear and quirk of human behavior, there were those who needed that guidance. So what did people do before "Chicken Soup for the Cro-Magnon Soul" was around? What do you think they did? They turned to poetry.

It was Rilke, after all, who wrote, "You must change your life." Has any motivational speaker ever said it better? Poets are supposed to be creative people, so perhaps it's time, when it comes to marketing the stuff, to get creative. Here are some of my suggestions.

Emote Those Pounds Away With Emily Dickinson Emily Dickinson spent most of her life in an attic, writing poems. When she wasn't writing, she was baking. Yet despite her sedentary lifestyle and diet heavy in sugar and fats, she kept her girlish figure all the way to the end. How did she do it? Simple! By remaining in a constant state of heightened emotion Emily made sure the pounds dropped off -- and stayed off. Plus all that pencil-wielding gave her arms wonderful definition. Check out the never-before-seen photos of Emily in her camisole. Then, try her patented techniques to whip yourself into a state of ecstatic reverie, and soon you too will weigh "Zero at the bone."

Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?: You Can Decide to Live a Better Life by T. S. Eliot Does making even the smallest decision baffle you? Do you spend hours worrying about whether you should wear your trousers rolled -- or unrolled? The inability to make up your mind can make your life a wasteland. Read successful banker T.S. Eliot's inspiring story of his struggle with self-doubt and procrastination -- and the method he used to become the man he is today. No need to lie there feeling as if you are somehow etherized upon a table -- Eliot shows you how to live a fuller, richer life.

Don't Just Get Mad. Get Really, Really Mad by Sylvia Plath Do you have trouble expressing your anger? Do you find that people take advantage of you -- because they can? Well, enough! It's time to show the world who's boss! Sylvia Plath, rage expert, will teach you how. Whether you need to confront that controlling parent or simply chop an onion, Plath's "Fury Workout" will finally give you the power to teach everyone -- and that includes your ex-husband! -- you're in control.

¡¡¡Green!!!!! by Federico García Lorca ¡Ay, caramba! This poet from the land of bullfights and Antonio Banderas has some decorating ideas about the color of spring that will make you drop your glue gun. Doll yourself up with green hair and green flesh and stand on your green balcony. Then wait for the compliments that are sure to arrive. Once you've filled your life with the magic of green, you'll be sure to cry out, "Green, how I want you green!" Olé!

Secrets of the Cockroach Whisperer by don marquis Who knew cockroaches could be so smart? Spend a little time with journalist don marquis and his little friend "archy," and the animal kingdom will never seem the same. Yes, once you've heard the wit and wisdom of archy as he has his say about bullfrogs, typewriters, François Villon, beer, suburbia, garbage cans, cats, free verse and reincarnation, you'll never spring for a roach motel again -- you'll be making up a bed in the guest room.

Vegetable Love by Andrew Marvell Vegetarianism -- it's the health craze that's taking over America. Inexpensive, good for you and for Planet Earth, the vegetarian diet has many advantages. But the most important one? It can improve your sex life! Ask Andrew Marvell. Once a stodgy meat eater, he discovered that when he laid off the lamb chops and went for the apples, grapes and most of all "the curious peach" his love life became "marvell-ous" overnight! Try some of his simple and mouthwatering recipes, and your passion, too, will "grow vaster than empires." Wow!

Frank O'Hara's Guide to Better Urban Living City life can be a barrel of laughs -- or a dreary trudge. If you're feeling that for you it's the latter, don't move to the suburbs yet. Pick up O'Hara's guide to better living through drinking, cigarette smoking, name dropping, in joking, moviegoing, bookstore browsing, walking to work, flirting like crazy, making love and simply hanging around the house. With O'Hara's visualization techniques, a trip to the dry cleaner will no longer be a dull chore but an adventure. Yes, like Nancy Sinatra's boots, the streets of your city are made for walking. Slip O'Hara's book in your pocket and get out there and have some fun! See how easy it is to transform your life through poetry?

Boost Your Self-Esteem With Walt Whitman Self esteem -- there's nothing like it. It makes you feel better about yourself and helps you get things done. But sometimes, when the going gets rough, your self-esteem gets going. Don't let it. Celebrate yourself! Walt Whitman will show you how. Soon you won't only be singing yourself, you'll be broadcasting yourself from every rooftop! The results are unbelievable!

Elizabeth Gold is a poet living in New York whose work has been published in Field, The Indiana Review, The Mid-American Review and other journals.Originally Published on Salon.com.Copyright Salon Media Group 2001.

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