I’ve been writing a long time. I used to type up original scripts for “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” on my portable Royal typewriter. There are a number of giveaways in the previous sentence showing how long ago that was. Over the intervening years, I’ve written business letters, software user documentation, newspaper and magazine articles, short stories, and even a paean to Benbrook, Texas, that came close to qualifying as fiction. The one genre I’ve studiously avoided is poetry.
I am not a poet. (Picture Richard Nixon striking his pose before boarding the Marine One helicopter to oblivion.) It’s true. Whenever I’ve tried, forced by optimistic English teachers who until they ran into me thought there was a poet in everyone, I failed dismally. No Robert Frost nor Paul Simon am I, nor even the guy who composed the roadside Burma Shave ditties . My poetry most closely resembles limericks and the graffiti in the ladies’ restroom at the House of Pizza in Ft. Worth.
I always had a hard time understanding and interpreting poetry, too. It never said to me what it was supposed to say. A poem, supposedly a statement on the condition of humankind, to me was a commentary on fishing out of season in Bexar County. I dreaded each year when my teacher’s fancy turned to poetry. The poetry test always screwed up my average.
Therefore, it was with resignation I approached last week’s meeting of the San Gabriel Writers League. Our speaker, a poet. I had to be there to take the minutes, so I couldn’t plead a 24-hour case of bubonic plague. I went, determined to make the most of it and just wait for the bell to ring—er, I mean, wait for the meeting to be over.
Instead, I was blown away by Thom Woodruff, aka Spirit Thom, aka Thom World Poet, a somewhat less-than-sane Aussie who proceeded to tear down all my preconceptions about poetry and replace them with a new admiration for those who can put words together in that special way. Before I could hide behind my dignity, I was mimicking his gestures and repeating after him like a Moonie at a revival. It was fun, and more than that, I understood most of his poetry. It is cogent, clever, thought-provoking, and liberating.
Thom performs his poetry. In another time, he would be the storyteller, relating tales worth remembering by firelight, holding his audience in the palm of his hand. The lucky attendees at our meeting were just as rapt, sitting with eyes wide, mouths slightly agape, laughing, gasping, and applauding. No wonder he’s also known as Thom the Circus.
This wasn’t exactly my first literary rodeo. Yet I was blown away, totally, by this one man’s poetry. If you get a chance to see and hear him, drop everything, put the hamburger meat back in the fridge, and get there as fast as your little feet will go. He’s a must-see, can’t-miss fandango.