Tim Suermondt

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Artwork by Gene McCormick

Letter to an Older Poet

The younger ones always suck up the most oxygen
and I know you sometimes feel less relevant
than the dinosaurs. Remember them? Neither do I.
But the vast majority of poets, even those who
are praised and prized at the moment, will tumble
into oblivion, consigned to musty books no one hardly
ever read, joining all the books that may never survive
the future. You’ve been a good, hard worker
in the strange fields of poetry and being workmanlike
with a dash of the beautifully oddball is a beautiful job,
a worthy, noble undertaking you had to pursue
and wanted to. I imagine the angels will look kindly
on someone who showed up every day, never quit.
Now crumple this up and get cracking on a new poem.

  “This Is a Very Famous Poem”
  The Editors of the Anthology Tell Us

It is and it’s a good poem—
deserves to be famous.
But I notice some cracks,
places where I’d have put it
differently and better and much
shorter—sometimes I enjoy
being a wise guy. I think of my
famous poem, I’ve written it
and just have to find it amidst
the clutter. So many poems—
Jesus Christ, I may have written
a handful of famous poems—
just wait until the next anthology.


Tim Suermondt is the author of five full-length collections of poems, the latest Josephine Baker Swimming Pool from MadHat Press, 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Stand Magazine, december magazine, Galway Review and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.