Four Poems by Ted Richer


1. Figuring


Who once figured:


Only two ways in which a writer can become important.


Way one:


Write a great deal.


And.


Publish everywhere.


Way two:


Write very little.


But.


Make them perfect in their kind.


And.


Make every publication an event.


So.


Who figured it that way?


. . .


You once figured, too:


Any other way in which a writer can become important.


For.


You could never write a great deal.


And.


You could never publish everywhere.


Yet.


You could write very little.


And.


You could make them perfect in their kind.


But.


You could not make a publication an event.


So.


You figured it this way.


2. Like Eliot


Eliot had the feeling:


. . . life is a cheat and a disappointment . . .


Eliot had the thought:


. . . life is a cheat and a disappointment . . .


Yet.


Eliot had the writing:


. . . life is a cheat and a disappointment . . .


To express:


The feeling and the thought.


Yet.


You, too, had the feeling:


. . . life is a cheat and a disappointment . . .


You, too, had the thought:


. . . life is a cheat and a disappointment . . .


Yet.


Eliot had the writing:


. . . life is a cheat and a disappointment . . .


To express:


The feeling and the thought.


Not you.


Yet.


I, too, have the feeling:


". . . life is a cheat and a disappointment . . ."


I too, have the thought:


". . . life is a cheat and a disappointment . . ."


Yet .


I, too, have the writing:


". . . life is a cheat and a disappointment . . ."


To express:


The feeling and the thought.


3. A Good Poet


T. S. Eliot said it, so:


(a good poet) must not only have


something to say


a little different from what anyone has said before


(a good poet)


must also have found the different way of saying it


which expresses


the difference in what (a good poet, too) is saying


T. S. Eliot said it, so.


. . .


I, myself, read it, so:


(a good poet) must not only have


something to say


a little different from what anyone has said before


(a good poet)


must also have found the different way of saying it


which expresses


the difference in what (a good poet, too) is saying


I, myself, read it, so.


. . .


T. S. Eliot said it, so.


I, myself, read it, so.


About myself.


About myself.


4. Eliot--To You*


do you


know


how "to select a good poem"


. . .


if you


know


how "to select a good poem"


do you


know


how "to reject a bad poem"


. . .


if you


know


how "to reject a bad poem"


do you


know


how "to select a good new poem"


. . .


if you


know


how "to select a good new poem"


do you


know


how to select or reject this new poem



* on "the rudiment of criticism"



Ted Richer, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, currently teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. In 2003 his book The Writer in the Story and Other Figurations (introduction by Christopher Ricks) was published in England by Apocalypse Press.

These four Eliot-inspired poems were originally published in Time Present: The Newsletter of the T. S. Eliot Society 58 (Winter-Spring 2006), 60 (Fall 2006), 64 (Spring 2008), and 65 (Summer 2008).