Well, not the fictional Paul Chowder in The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker. But I know the many child Paul Chowders who pass through my door every year. I teach elementary school and I can recognize at a glance an impulsive personality moving down the hallway. By the time it gets to me, it has taken twice as long as it should and traveled three times the distance down that hall with twists and turns and stops and starts. But I remind myself that this wanderer has discovered more about that path than I have in all the years that I walked that same hallway. I take a special delight in those Paul or Paula Chowders.
The current book club selection by Lyla Lindquist at Tweetspeak Poetry makes me gaffaw. I am truly enjoying this book. I am awed by Paul Chowder’s ability to make such fun of himself, other poets, free verse, and love. Then without a blink, he smacks us with a punch.
Smacko? Who would name their dog Smacko?
Excuse my taking liberties here, but the poet doth protest too much, me thinks. I wonder if his ranting, and I write this with a chuckle, of unrhymed poetry comes from his own writer’s block? And I’m not talking about Paul Chowder struggling to finish the introduction to his anthology. I wonder why he is not writing his own poetry? Paul Chowder wants everyone to stop writing poetry, especially those who write the dreaded free verse. Is that so he can catch-up? But he’s not writing. Anything. He’s only complaining…
Not to write – perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub! Again, forgive me Will, but what took me by surprise from free-verse-hating Paul Chowder is his lovely “free verse” scattered through out the chapters while he daydreams.
Here are just a few of my favorite beautiful words ala Paul Chowder :
I feel the sun warming up the clear flamingos that swim around my eyeballs
Another inchworm fell on my pant leg
Poetry is written sometimes, I think, in a whisper.
I hear that chirping. I know that the world is starting up.
…tulips rhyme. One tulip leaf goes this way, and the other tulip leaf goes that way.
…in the mist, I saw a big man walking up the street. He was wearing one shoe.
I can hardly wait to discover if Paul Chowder repents against his hatred of free verse, finds love, and finishes his introduction. Oh, and learns to play a little badminton with abandon.
But most of all, my wish for Paul Chowder is to sit down and write poetry. Maybe I’ll write something, too.
The world will never have its fill of beautiful words.