Cam Scott is Contributing Editor to Cheek Teeth. Learn more on his website.
Yesterday I guided a Pro-Bowl NFL’er on a fly-fishing trip. It would have been easier doing a lot of other things, but this time of year, I am a fly-fishing guide, and for three months, all of life’s easier things are put on the back burner while I try to save enough money in order to say I’m a poet the other the eight months of the year.
“Cam,” you might ask, “aren’t you a poet right now?” Or perhaps you are smiling to yourself, thinking, “Geez, being a fly-fishing guide can’t be that hard.”
The things I have to say in response to either of these queries are like a Gerard Manly Hopkins poem. Meaning, not very simple. And highly punctuated with turns, alliteration, and emotional wrecking balls. And. Yeah. Something like that.
The aforementioned Pro-Bowler, er, NFL superstar, er, Dude, seemed like a good dude kind of dude. Dude. But even good dudes have their problems. And while it is my job when I have you out on the river to keep you entertained, hydrated, and catching fish, there are only so many things I have control over. If twelve big rainbows rise to your dry fly in a red-rock strewn canyon and you miss the hook-set on each one, and we go fishless; if you forget your rolling papers; if you keep checking your smart phone; or if you bonk, well, there isn’t much I can do. I hate going fishless. Almost as much as I hate language poetry. And I hate getting stiffed on a tip almost as much as I hate going fishless, but by the time he started looking for his own rolling papers, I’d given up on getting a tip and felt the world collapsing into language poetry land. Meaning, disconnected. And confusing.
Driving home I felt as though I’d been through a really really bad critique workshop. Every word and line of every poem had waffled beneath the weight of meaninglessness. Everything that coulda, shoulda, and woulda, didn’t happen. And everything that isn’t supposed to happen, did. The metaphors: clichéd. The images: drowned like a ground squirrel in a bucket. The music: nada. Mercy: less.