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Diane Wakoski

Dave Newman

I called her once when she was teaching at Michigan State.
I was twenty-three years old and a janitor.
I thought I’d go to grad school instead.
You could read Diane Wakoski on the job with a broom
in one hand, a book in the other. You didn’t have to go
to grad school to understand her poems. I didn’t want
to go to grad school to study with Diane Wakoski.
I wanted to tell her I loved her poems and that maybe
she would love my poems and we could be friends.
But books are not people, and authors are not their books.
Diane Wakoski was cranky on the phone.
She asked for my name three times and cleared her throat.
I wondered if she’d ever called William Carlos Williams.
Diane Wakoski writes like William Carlos Williams but much better.
William Carlos Williams was not a crank; he was a doctor.
If you have to call a poet, call one who believes in medicine.
My favorite Wakoski title was: Dancing on the Grave of a Son of a Bitch.
She knew how to take a man down in a poem: You ride a broken motorcycle /
You speak a dead language / You are a bad plumber / You write with an inkless pen.
I used to like to fight with women and write about it.
The women that I fought with thought I was a very good writer.
One lady slapped me across the face and said, “Write about that!”
I wrote about it. I wrote, “Your slaps are like wrecking balls
but I am a very large building made of heavenly steel.”
Diane Wakoski didn’t know much about grad school
even though she was on the phone at the university where she taught.
I said, “Well, I really love your poems.” She said, “Thank you.”
I have not spoken to Diane Wakoski since, though I still read
her books. If you see her, tell her, “Hello,” and that I am in love.

Dave Newman

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Author Discusses Poems