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One day, I got mad at my 11th grade English teacher, who was also the adviser of the school literary journal and the sole arbiter of its literary contest. Convinced that her pedestrian sensibilities spelled doom for the chances of my spare, austere verse, I sat down at the kitchen table one night and wrote a long stream-of-consciousness poem filled with heavy-handed metaphors and thumpedy-thump rhyme schemes. It was a very, very bad -- glaringly bad, mockingly bad -- poem. Not hearts-and-flowers bad. This was, after all, the seventies. So, there was obscure psychedelic imagery, some profanity, and a surrealistic feel to the whole thing. Still, it seemed evident to me that this poem was a joke, literally making a mockery of trite poetic conventions, both traditional and modern. "You want trash?" the poem asked my teacher, "Here's trash. " I put it in the box for submissions to the literary journal feeling a bit abashed about insulting her so obviously. You can guess what happened next, yes? The poem I meant as a sarcastic joke won first prize and was printed on the first pages of the journal for everyone to read -- as if I had submitted it as work of which I was proud. I was so embarrassed the day it came out! I ran around telling everyone, "That poem was a hoax! Look at the one further back in the pages -- that's what my real poetry looks like. " (Of course that embarrassment didn't stop me from collecting and spending the bookstore gift certificate my "prize poem" had won me!) In recent years, I've softened a bit in my assessment of that poem, aided perhaps by the absence of a copy to consult. If other people liked it, who am I to say it was "bad"? It certainly was lively and there was real feeling between its lines. Maybe the metaphors that felt so trite to me evoked real feeling in some readers. Maybe those images I intended to be so obscure as to be meaningless did make some kind of personal sense to some readers. Similarly, there's a plywood painting leaning against the outside of my house. I hate it. I made it. I'd kept on painting even after it was clear I wasn't going to realize the effect I was going for and then carried it outside in disgust, intending to use the wood in some future construction project. But Miriam Jones, who used to live here too and still comes back to visit for a couple of days each month, likes that painting very much. I won't have it in the house. She likes to look at it. So it serves as outdoor decoration pending its reuse as scrap lumber. My point being: Who am I to say (as [viagra vs cialis] I often do) that's a bad painting if she likes it? And, in fact, as decoration rather than art, it does rather cheer up the place. (A cheery effect is the exact opposite of what I was going for; hence my own dissatisfaction at the time of creation. ) Oops, I didn't mean to stray into the intellectually dreary realm of aesthetic argumentation. All I meant to do was introduce an essay that I don't think is among my best but which has been so widely reprinted that there must be something good about it. "Who would Jesus kill?" That's the question I rhetorically asked myself on Christmas day in 2002, as the nation debated viagra vs cialis whether or not to attack Iraq. Viagra vs cialis the is, in my view, too heavy on didactic argument and too light on lively imagery but turned out to be very popular. After I released it under a Creative Commons copyright allowing unrestricted reprinting, it turned up in a freebie "holistic health" magazine viagra vs cialis, a newspaper devoted to alternative spirituality, the very serious "political economy" section of Pakistan's largest English-language newspaper, and the website of the Animal Liberation Front -- to name just a few of its disparate destinations. The only other time I've been so surprised by where my words have ended up was when I stumbled upon segments of an essay I wrote about colonialism and homophobia in one of those glossy gay male giveaway magazines with semi-pornographic pictures on the cover and articles about travel and fashion inside. (I'd googled a phrase from the article trying to find its original URL. ) This Christmas day, I'll be working on something that won't see print for some time, if ever. So, in honor of my holiday tradition, I posted "" on my text archive. Check it out, if you like, to see if you agree with my assessment (cogent but deadly) or that of the many editors who chose to run it.


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