Mar 13

Ten Reasons to Sleep With a Poet

An earlier form of the "Ten Reasons Not to Sleep with a Poet" screed was circulating even before the Internet, but the amusing hepcat literary site, maybe thinking it new, has it online, and among all the responses that said "Here's the 11th reason not to do it" "the 12th reason" was this beautiful rejoinder by "Grey," whose real name is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and who gave me permission to post it here. Not for everyone, it's an antidote to cynicism and a hymn to the way poets can love.

Ten Reasons TO Sleep with a Poet

  1. If they were raised without religion, their use of imagery and metaphor will be straightforward; they will call you simple, endearing names like, “honey” and “dear.” If they were raised in some fundamentalist religion, you will sense the pain and anguish in the depth of their eyes and experience the back and forth of the dogmatic right/wrong hold from which their heart is still trying to get out from underneath; you will excuse this because of the ways in which they often make you feel holy.
  2. They will sigh softly in their sleep when they wake up intermittently and realize that you are lying next to them and express this satisfaction and elation through whispers that slightly resemble their waking voices. This sound will echo in your ears as you are moving through your day.
  3. In bed, they will say things like, I want you to fuck me with your huge cock, which said by anyone else might seem crass and disgusting, but it does nothing but turn you on more and you are even sure that this might be a line from a more radical poem on the politics of queer sex that they have written.
  4. They will listen deeply to everything that you say, and at the beginning you might wonder if they are really listening, and then two weeks later they recite the exact thing you said and this is both a little embarrassing (did I really say that?) and wonderful at the same time.
  5. They help you believe that you, too, are really a poet. They sometimes (obnoxiously) rephrase observations that you make about simple, mundane things to point out the beauty so much so that when you are alone and notice something simple, you can imagine what they might say about the way the jade plant in your living room leans slightly forward to take in all of the sun that it can.
  6. They imprint your life with small details that drive you crazy and that you never realized you had room for before, like the way they describe the line from your hipbone to your chest, which they describe over and over again as “open.” They notice how you slouch in your chair when you are angry and tuck your thumbs into your fists when you are feeling anxious.
  7. They will laugh with a sense of joy that feels pure. They tear up at sunsets. They have loved deeply, over and over again.
  8. Their preferred form of communication is (clearly) the written word, and they will send you emails and texts with lines from their favorite books of poetry. They leave you notes in the morning written on napkins, wrappers, and bits of paper you had lying around.
  9. Sleeping with a poet will set a new precedence in the act of gift-giving and celebrating holidays (especially birthdays) from there on out. They will give you gifts they have made themselves or buy you something you never directly asked for but happened to mention one day, like when you told the story about longing to play catch with your older brother growing up and then they bought you your own glove for Christmas. Or they will write bits of Rumi on the pots of houseplants they give you and say things in cards, like: “You were in my dream last night. I don’t remember the whole of it, but you kissed me. The potency of the sensation was incredible—even in a dream. And when I woke up, I still felt the kiss in my body.” 
  10. Nothing will ever be just what it is. Getting brunch will be a reason to write a joint poem on a napkin together, each of you authoring alternating lines. Reading to one another from your favorite books will take the place of meals because you will forget that you are hungry, a walk in the spring will be full of wind and smells and colors and tastes and textures that you never imagined before, especially not before you slept with a poet.
Jul 27

The Other Woman

Boyfriend, who is good and kind, informed me via e-mail and out of the blue that unavoidable work will keep us apart the next two months. My response: Shock. Dismay. Then write and post an article titled "The Proper Way to Tell Your Girlfriend That You Can't See Her for Two Months," and send him the link. And mope. And wonder if it's really another woman.

It sure is! She showed up in his future in a Tarot-card reading as the Queen of Cups, the Creative Queen. She's an introspective, intuitive type, serene, always inspired. What's more, she's blonde! She lives comfortably, is probably an artist of some kind,  surrounded by art and artists. I bet Boyfriend is especially intrigued because her focus is elsewhere and she's as busy as he. ("Men seem to like that," I said, merely to myself.) And she has a loving heart.

I was furious. I could not compete. About to post an article titled "How to Surf Just for Spite," I realized I could be the Creative Queen in his future. If I chose. So I chose. Every day I put on a dress and jewelry, and regally work on artistic projects. I'm not kidding. It feels great to rededicate myself. I have an appointment to have my hair dyed blonde (that, I'm kidding about).
Apr 05

Turning Away from Toxic Friends

People who make me cry in bathrooms at parties are now off my list. "You," said a former friend, "are a representative of the literary establishment in this town, and I want nothing to do with that, so I don't want anything to do with you." We'd been friends for 20 years, close friends for 10. There was no reasoning with this person, who had been alienating friends one by one, so I'd heard, and had said uncharacteristically hostile things before, but I blamed it on hardening arteries. I hid and cried. There was nothing to do but cut this person -- and I hate doing artificial, gamey social shit like that -- at the next gathering where this person called after me, "Hey, Catherine--" Jerk me around? Uh-uh. I choose my mental health.

Former good buddy lies around now smoking pot, having ruined his finances by investing all in a business scheme, complaining in an endless loop about how he's been blackballed and there's no use looking for work. Tells me he's going to write a novel, will I read it when he writes it? I am no longer getting any pleasure from this friendship.

Distanced myself from former very close friend who broadcast something personal I said in confidence. We still must interact, but trust this person again? Never.

I look askance now at a likeable person who wanted to make sure I'm still teaching ONLY at the night school while this person holds a slightly more prestigious position.

Years ago a close writer friend and I competed for the same prize. I won. Never heard from him again. That's probably a good thing.

A dear friend needs to be steered away from the toxic topic of why this friend isn't published in Poetry and why universities aren't begging this person to teach and do readings. I said, "You've got to go to them." This person replies, "I shouldn't have to." I explain that things have changed since the days of Allen Tate. This conversation is toxic both to this friend and to me.

Am sad when people remain miffed that they were not interviewed for Meet Me. I couldn't interview everyone in town. There are two writers I deliberately and with forethought chose not to include: David Clewell and William Gass. There's plenty of stuff about them in print and online. Writers, if you want to be interviewed, do something new or notable and then put yourself in the path of interviewers.

Writers and non-writers, keep positive people around you if you are going for your dreams. And you need to be a positive person yourself.