--a one line poem, written by hand with a silver Sharpie on a Unicopy Royal black cotton typewriter ribbon I had to draw the line somewhere. I had crossed the line, was out of line, and I thought I should bring my poems into line. I made a beeline for my bookshelves lined with poetry, the lines on my forehead crinkling from concentration. I used an Etch A Sketch to trace my lineage all the way back to Georges Duhamel, trying to prove that I came from a long line of great poets. My teacher said, “Read that third line again,” but when I looked at my poem, it was all one line, running off my desk and creeping under the classroom door and into the hall. I was in the line of fire, the students in the class had drawn a line in the sand, and I was on the wrong side. I stood in poetry’s welfare line, getting handouts when I could. I stood in a picket line, protesting formal verse and wound up in the poetry police lineup. I signed on the dotted line, agreeing to toe the line, and began my line of duty. I snorted a line of cocaine, adjusted my hemline and smoothed my panty line. I tried to draw a straight line with my eyeliner. Then I went line dancing, the Electric Slide and the Macarena. I kept hearing “Wichita Lineman” on the radio and thought Glen Campbell was singing directly to me. I kept hearing the same old pick-up line: What’s a neat reader like you doing in a sprawling poem like this? There was no silver lining, no direct line to muse. I shot staples from my Swingline into the fault line. I read the liner notes of jazz greats and memorized the bylines. I hung my A-line skirt on the clothesline to dry. I worked on the pipeline, worked for a cruise line, but still the lines in my poems wouldn’t fall into place. I watched What’s My Line? (1950-1967) in syndication. Poet Louis Untermeyer, one of the original panelists, stayed on for one year until he was listed in Red Channels, a publication of the McCarthy era that smeared him as a Communist sympathizer. Some of the “lines” on the show were hatcheck girl, trapeze artist, Brussels sprout trimmer, blanket embroiderer, and cockle gatherer. What’s my line exactly? I’m in the line of making poetic lines, a job along the lines of a prose writer, except I don’t usually write an outline first. It’s sort of like working on an assembly line except that I don’t work in line with others. Everyone admires my tan lines, my laugh lines, my line of credit, but no one admires my sloppy line breaks. I dropped a line to a famous editor who had her ducks lined up and begged for a line-by-line critique. I ordered airline tickets on-line and visited poets’ graves. I took the red line to Cambridge and memorized illustrious lines in Harvard’s George Edward Woodberry Poetry Room. I always kept the perfectly crafted poem in my line of sight. If only I could follow a great line of reasoning, if only I could somehow answer an important line of questioning, somewhere down the line, I’d get it—the punch line, the perfect finishing line.
Denise Duhamel Read Bio Author Discusses Poems
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