Inconveniences Rightly Considered

       Lancelot Schaubert
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rightly considered

poems from 2005 - 2017

lancelot schaubert

ft. “Holy Saturday” by T. A. Giltner
copyright © 2017
Lancelot Schaubert

cover image “adventure awaits!” by Zach Disner
used in compliance with his creative commons
attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

ISBN: 9781521816615

For Doug
Who liked some

For Karl
Who liked some more

For Jessie
Who unfortunately liked them better than any other thing I've done

And for the Unclave
Who said as much, but asked for them in writng

In Defense of Poetry

Sometimes the best things happen by a strange-but-steady sequence of happy accidents: inconveniences, rightly considered. This one is about a decade in the making, give or take a few years. But it's a story that needs the telling because if it were up to me and my own efforts and preferences, this book never would have existed:

At the Writer Unboxed Unclave writers' retreat of 2015 (I kind of wish I had more words to put in the title -- Wordstravaganza? Manuscrivening? Reperstory? Storiginating rest machine?)... anyways at this retreat thing Momma L.J. Cohen, Momma Barbara Morrison, and Momma Gretchen Riddle all three told me I should assemble a book of my poems and lyrics. Three music producers in Brooklyn said the same thing shortly afterwards. People like Jessie Weis and Karl Mitchell have said for years that they prefer my poetry and songs to my other work, a weird kind of unintended-yet-still-backhanded compliment that made me say, "Thanks, but that stinks since I've invested more time into oral storytelling, fiction, screenwriting, and nonfiction." I thought it was unfair: the thing I spent the least time on was the favorite of some of my closest readers.

As it turns out, that's not entirely true -- I have spent a large amount of time practicing poetry over the last ten years or so. And Jessie and Karl were right, in one sense, to prefer it.

I started out writing poems to my future wife in letters in highschool, transitioned to journals, and then blogging as a college freshman prompted by Michelle Johnson of Poefusion (wherever in the world she is these days--the internet was a weird place even early on kind of like how Neverland may age but never lose its fairies and pirates). Because of those early habits, when I get stuck between projects or struck by some unexpected beauty like a random set of fountains in the courtyard between two skyscrapers, I'll pull out my journal and write a few lines of a verse. Sometimes it's just to take down an image and its corresponding metaphor. For instance, a bit of fog left behind a car beneath a streetlight at midnight and no sign of any vehicle for miles around:

Ghost car?

Angel farts?


Yes, maybe poetry.

Sometimes this combined with assignments for Rev. Doug Welch's or Dr. Tom Lawson's classes would yield an inordinate amount of time on a villanelle or a sonnet. Sometimes a client would ask for a spoken word piece (ick!) or better yet, an ode or sonnet for someone close to them. Sometimes a superior songwriter would ask for help on their lyrics or a children's picture book author who knew nothing about meter would give me a call and I would delight in utterly destroying their manuscript. Whatever you think of the lasting impact of Dr. Suess, you must admit that anapestic tetrameter is a BEAR to write. A rabid one.

Most of the time it was me sharing things with the soon-to-be Dr. T. A. Giltner, who had invariably written something very similar to mine almost at the same moment I had written my own. Or bantering over a line with Rev. Kyle Welch (Doug's very-younger brother) who to this day puts up with my incessant barrage of manuscripts upon his email server. Without long suffering men like these, a writer buries most of his work. And even with them, I've buried a good deal of my own on a hard drive or under a mattress or even permanently in that massive fireplace we had in the cottage on Emperor road. The one the felled oak tore in twain.

In other words, many of what Professor Matt Proctor might call my "spare change minutes" over the years have ended up devoted to the mixing of metaphors to the tune of meter, verse, and rhyme.

And after awhile, the meter started to show up even in random drafts of children's books like the still-yet-to-be-sold "Harry Rides the Danger" which is about Mark Neuenschwander's (of 9art Photography's) son or "Shrackle Seeds" which is something like Carroll's Jabberwocky. It started to show up during my years as an editor when I reformed the poetry of clients. It even started to show up again in my marriage -- in little notes or letters or things hidden behind kitchen cabinet doors.

In that time, I sold some poems to various small magazines, but I stopped submitting fairly early on for two reasons --

(1) Poetry pay is crap. It's disgusting how little we pay our poets. Did you know a poet helped incite the Ukrainian revolution? Yeah, that would never happen in America these days. We've deferred the future of our language to Top 40 vapidity and advertising jingles.

(2) I have no interest in trying for laureate or whatever first because I would never make it and second because I value the lay poet as much as I value restoring the role of singing to the common man. We are a lyrically suppressed society as much as we are a vocally suppressed one -- and that idea comes to me by way of the songwriter and musician, Nicholas Zork, here in New York City (I think he's in Harlem these days). To revolt against vocal and lyrical suppression in the public sphere is to revolt against the worst parts of Americana, jingoism, and the imperial cult which thrives on brain drain and the gutting of our culture.

Then I sold a poem and an article to the 2016 Poet's Market randomly (the biggest advances in any author's career are often the most random, which shows that you really do have to be ready in season and out of season). Poets came out of the woodwork within my immediate sphere of influence to ask me questions as if I'm some expert when I'm really just fumbling my way along like the rest of you. It really wasn't a huge sale, all things considered, but it was a statistically significant anomaly simply by way of the poets it swept in its wake. So if nothing else the email fallout was something, I suppose.

But it truly felt doubly strange to me seeing as how (1) I'm a dilettante and (2) I have zero interest in becoming a professional poet moving forward. My role -- like your role -- must be that of restoring poetry's prominence in every home and every pub and every church and every barbershop.

And yet people have asked me about this subject. A lady messaged me last night for advice and two nights before that, the same. Why? Why would you do this? Why not email David Lee or C.D. Wright or Eugene Peterson or Berry or Wiman or Poe's gravestone in Baltimore or something?

They do it because poetry is a layperson thing and I'm the one layperson they happen to know who has invested time in this. That's it, it's nothing more, it's nothing astounding, nothing miraculous or noteworthy -- I'm their equivalent of the local blacksmith, the local tinker, the local tailor. I'm the poet they know and the best example of this comes from a street artist here in Brooklyn as well as my barber.

The street artist is named Appleton. He does these wheat pastings of insulin bottles. As a type one diabetic, Appleton hit it off with my wife immediately and I interviewed him for the piece Sitting at the Feet of Type One Diabetes. Shortly after, he asked me to do street art with him and though I'm no visual artist, he pressed me a bit to consider what I'd do. "Could you hang some poems?" I asked.

"Basquiat did that man. That's a good idea."

And so a devious collaboration started. One that would involve New York Subways and walls and would involve my words and Appleton's penchant for ornery behavior.

Meanwhile in Sunset Park, I continued further in my quest to become one of the pillars of the neighborhood -- not someone participating actively in gentrification, but someone who participates in what Gordon Ventruella calls cultural agility and situational awareness, the sort of chameleon adaptability that moves beyond survival and into the realm of solidarity. In short, I started learning Spanish in earnest and offering to tutor the illiterate and give to the poor and finally spending a lot of time in local organizing groups and hangout spots. One of them is a barbershop owned by a barber named Eric who has lived here his whole life. He spends every other Saturday night hefting those old barber chairs out of the way, setting up speakers, turning on the beats and letting people freestyle hip hop, beat box, perform new songs, and read some poetry.

I asked him if I could try some.

The last poetry reading I'd done was for a short film. A mic. No live audience.

He said, "Sure."

Took two weeks for me to take to the mic.

When I finally did, I found those guys -- my neighbors -- to be the single most receptive audience I have ever read for. More than any professor, any writing group, any theater. They care. They care because hip hop saved them and the neighborhood from what Eric calls "bombed out buildings." And they're no respecters of styles and fashions and forms: I'll read a spoken word piece and then a classical ode or a
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