Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Tag: poetry

Free Box #5: Old Testament Beard, Where Have You Been All My Life?

“Old Testament Beard, Where Have You Been All My Life?” is the title of my undergraduate thesis in creative writing. I’m alarmed to find it’s more than 10 years old.

It was doing absolutely nothing, hanging out in a filing cabinet, so since I have a scanner and a website, I thought I’d post it. It’s quite a bit of writing, especially for an undergrad: 60 pages comprising two stories, three poems, one essay, and a tough-to-define thing that I guess you could call a story. (It’s text that was screen-printed onto a t-shirt as part of a group art project; see the very last page of the document and decide for yourself.) I’ve improved as a writer since then, certainly, but I remain fairly proud of a lot of this writing

Anyway, here’s Old Testament Beard Where Have You Been All My Life?.

 

Free Box #4: “The Saga of Gallagher, Book the First, Verses 1-56”

Nothing I can say about this one will adequately prepare you for what a weird piece of writing this is.

. . . Except maybe the fact that I wrote it for a poetry slam at Sarah Lawrence College in the spring of 1999, and “performed” it by putting the pages inside the biggest, oldest-looking book I could find in the library, and read to the (pretty large) audience as if reading from some ancient tome.

And also that, yes, it is about that Gallagher, the watermelon-smashing comedian. (Here is a phenomenal review of an ill-advised Spanish language show Gallagher put on some time ago.)

Anyway, beside that, there’s nothing I can really say. Here’s the poem:

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Reason #9 to Love Pittsburgh: Billy Nardozzi and Pittsburgh’s Literary Underground

Today I was paging through the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and saw this guy’s face in the section for paid announcements:

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It was the second time I’d seen Billy Nardozzi and his poetry in the Post-Gazette, and I thought, “What in the world?”

I did some research, and apparently he’s a known quantity here in Pittsburgh: NPR wrote a piece on him in 2011. That followed a Post-Gazette feature from 2009 by Brian O’Neill, a great PPG reporter.

Nardozzi drops $50 to $100 every Tuesday to have his poems published, along with a photo of himself with that ridiculous mullet and, at the bottom of each poem, his phone number, with a note beneath it saying, “((( All Calls Are Welcomed ))).”

Some people do call him, he said, many with words of encouragement and thanks, and others with advice to cut the mullet. Both pieces take pains to make the point that, no, this is not ironic at all. You’d be forgiven if you thought it were an elaborate joke, because these poems kind of stink.

I could explain why in detail, but instead, here’s a Tumblr of the poems of Billy Nardozzi.

Reading about Nardozzi reminded me of The Dirty Poet, a Pittsburgh fixture whose poems tend to appear overnight, yellow 8 1/2 x 11″ yellow sheets of paper taped to poles in Squirrel Hill, Friendship, Bloomfield, and other neighborhoods. This Pittsburgh Quarterly piece talks briefly to The Dirty Poet.

I met The Dirty Poet once, setting out his poetry at great Pittsburgh bar the Brillobox. He said to me basically what he said to the Pittsburgh Quarterly: that he gets more feedback on his poetry from taping it to phone poles than he ever has publishing in small literary magazines. (He was a little snide when he heard I was a writer, and asked if I’d published anything. I said I had, which occasioned his little soapbox speech.)

This New Yorker blog piece also namedrops The Dirty Poet as it extols Pittsburgh’s literary scene. As good a job as the writer does, I feel there’s an obvious indicator of the depth and richness of Pittsburgh’s literary culture that Ms. Macy Halford missed: Pittsburgh has not only a literary scene but a literary underground, populated by writers who so burn to be heard they bypass the machinery of that literary scene and pay to publish their work, and sneak out in the dead of night to tape their work to traffic poles (or, go out at 9 p.m. to distribute it at bars). That is what I call a literary culture.

Found Poetry from the Chicago Manual of Style

At my previous position, as a copy editor, I had a fair bit of downtime and access to the Chicago Manual of Style (15th or 16th edition for you grammarphiles who might be wondering). To pass the time and to make myself a better editor, I’d read through it until I started dozing off. Along the way I wrote down some of the more notable example phrases and sentences the Manual used to illustrate various grammatical principles. These are from all over the book, representing any number of grammatical rules.

I’ve given the poem my own title, but if you’ve got a better one, suggest it in the comments.

“The Onslaught of the Word”

We the voters will decide
Children, stop misbehaving
A limo carried the band
I hoped to see many deer, but I saw only one deer

The governor delivered a speech
The shops are crowded because the holiday season has begun
The troops retreated in winter
High in the tree sat a leopard

My show dogs are Australian shepherds
The balloon carried a pilot and a passenger
Place the slide under the microscope
The queen consulted the prime minister

Everything else was returned; the medicine the villain withheld
An assembly of strangers was outside
George Washington, our first president, was born in Virginia
Robert Burns, the poet, wrote many songs about women named Mary

The husband has worked hard to produce this crop
You must husband your land thoughtfully
More school districts are mainstreaming pupils with special needs
The poor are always with us

We cannot avoid the here and now

Swimming in that lake can be dangerous

To discover the truth is our goal

What the people want is justice

The father told the father’s daughter that the father wanted the father’s daughter to do some chores
The father told his daughter that he wanted her to do some chores