O P I N I O N
I was stoned—too stoned—the first time I watched the 1982 film “Pink Floyd: The Wall.”
I was 17 years old, sitting in the living room of some dilapidated apartment where the walls were sweating. There was a television in the corner, playing the movie on a VCR.
In a near-catatonic state, I melted into a loveseat with cigarette holes burned into the arms, watching the television where a humorless British primary school teacher with stern, bushy eyebrows berated a young Pink (Kevin McKeon) for writing poetry.
“Poems, no less. Poems, everybody. The laddy reckons himself a poet,” the teacher said before reading Pink’s poem aloud to the class, who erupted in laughter as the young poet stares dolefully at his folded hands.
By this point, I already had notebooks filled with my own poetry, and given my impaired state, the scene resonated with me. I’d like to believe this brought on my first epiphany about poetry: despite my ardent intentions, writing poetry would never get me laid.
But I continued to write it anyway. I don’t know why. I guess you could call it a catharsis, or a compulsion, or a condition, or something I just did. While some people went out clubbing in their 20s, I would stay home and drink red wine and write poems.
So here we are, 30 years later, and last week, at 48 years old, I published my fifth full-length book of poetry titled “Born on Good Friday” with Roadside Press. I’ve also been married to the same woman for two decades and no longer wonder—or care—if my poetry will get me laid.
Tonight, I’m leafing through my book. Of course, I’m not reading it—I have a good idea what it says—but holding something that I’ve written in my hands somehow makes it seem more real.
I’m then drawn to the epigraph of the book, which is a verse from “Wind-Up”, the final song in Jethro Tull’s 1971 album, “Aqualung” and it occurs to me that on some unconscious level, perhaps I was connecting the song with my experience on that loveseat with the cigarette holes, watching “Pink Floyd: The Wall” on a pot-addled night in high school. The epigraph reads:
“So to my old headmaster and to anyone who cares/before I’m through I’d like to say my prayers./Well, you can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school/And have all the bishops harmonize these lines.”
Over the years, I’ve learned that poems are, indeed, prayers, of sorts. Not just confessions. But private prayers, only to be shared if the poet agrees to share them, and not meant to demean or humiliate the writer.
This past week, since my book’s release, I’ve been reminded that—despite the ominous threat of AI omnipotence— poetry will continue to be a human endeavor, beautiful and full-bellied and, at times, communal.
On Thursday Aug. 17, the day before my book’s official release, I attended a gathering of poets and writers and musicians at Rob Azevedo’s barn at Pembroke City Limits. That evening, we listened to each other read our poems and prose while two musicians played jazz music in the background, and I swear, for those three hours, the words really mattered. It reaffirmed my belief in them.
Then, on Friday, my book was officially released, and my wife and I invited some friends to our house in Manchester to celebrate. It was not a Gatsby-like gala by any means—we drank beer and wine by the fire pit on our back porch—but so many of my friends showed up to honor these little word gatherings that I had collected in the past decade that my heart felt full with gratitude.
I’m thinking this might be a male’s demarcation for growing up: A man feels gratitude for things that exist outside his own genitalia.
“The laddy reckons himself a poet?” the teacher asked.
Yes. I suppose I do.
 As it turns out, in an attempt to humiliate his student, the teacher reads the lyrics to “Money” aloud to the class before going home to his “fat psychopathic wife” who would “trash him within inches of his life.”
 One of the best things about getting older is no longer trying to get laid. Married or single, you can see through a clear lens the absurdity of our mating rituals.
 Written long before I was even a glow in my father’s eye.