I met Douglas Goetsch several years ago as my instructor in a poetry class at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and I immediately became an admirer of his work. Since then, he has become a mentor and a friend and hasn’t stopped being one hell of a poet, either.
One of the things I most enjoy about Doug’s work is its ability to be real, for lack of a better word. It doesn’t beat around the bush. It illuminates the world (including its people) with flaws intact, and it often says the things we wish we could say but don’t. Go read “What Would Make Me Happy” (one of my favorites of Doug’s earlier poems) here.
The first stanza paints a familiar picture of loneliness with simple grace – and the clothes they chose that morning/and were seen in all day. That detail is an example of the poet telling us something that we all know – yes, when we choose our outfits for work, we are seen in them all day – yet making it resonate in a new way, almost as a type of resignation.
But it is the second stanza that focuses the reader on the simple desires of the speaker, whose seemingly harsh wishes about his former peers are indeed very human and recognizable. At the end of the day, the speaker does not want the houses, the awards; instead, the speaker desires only the simple courtesy of love.
There are other sample poems on Doug’s website – “Counting” is another favorite – and he has recently had poems appear in The New Yorker, if you happen to subscribe.
If you want to write today:
1. Use “What Would Make Me Happy” as the title of a new poem.
2. Write a poem where you observe people in public and use the small details of their attire to create a feeling or tone.