When I heard poet and sculptor Jay Hall Carpenter perform this poetic monologue a few weeks ago, I knew it was the perfect thing to share on Black Friday.
I met Jay, a fellow Maryland poet, at the DiVerse Poetry readings series in Gaithersburg, MD this spring. (Those of you who go to that city’s book festival, be sure to say hi to Lucinda Marshall, host of the Diverse Poetry series and its lively community of readers.) After hearing him read, I had to invite Jay to perform at the local series I co-host, Wilde Readings.
I hope this hilarious portrait poem brings you a smile, whether or not you’re braving the malls today.
By Jay Hall Carpenter
What if I had a diff’rent job,
An occupation more attuned
To skills that best befit a snob
And are, in practice, less jejune?
Perhaps I could, a critic be–
No Broadway show could match my taste.
I could appraise fine jewelry
And at a glance know gem from paste.
But English, that’s the highest calling,
To speak precisely, without doubt.
And what on Earth is more appalling
Than when one calls a route a rout?
We lend to friends, we never loan,
And such transgressions bare my talons.
For we must all, our grammar hone.
It is less milk, but fewer gallons.
We champ the bit, we do not chomp,
A swind’ler is a sharp, not shark.
Abhor inconsequential pomp
And make each sentence hit its mark!
It’s Farther when we go the distance,
Further when we’ve things to add.
The full effect of my assistance
Is an affect far from bad.
We flounder, as we gasp for breath,
But founder when we sink below.
Poor usage is akin to death
As even lesser men should know.
Yet here I’m stuck and must be stalwart,
Although I’m built for better thing.
So in my name-tagged vest at Walmart
I’ll greet them in the tongue of kings!
Shared with the author’s permission.
Jay Hall Carpenter has been a professional artist for over 40 years, beginning as a sculptor for the Washington National Cathedral, and winning numerous national awards for his work. His first poetry collection, Dark and Light (2012), was followed by 101 Limericks Inappropriate For All Occasions (2107), and will be followed next year by a third, as yet untitled, collection. He has written poetry, plays, and children’s books throughout his career and now sculpts and writes in Silver Spring, MD.
Check out Jay’s wonderful gallery of sculptures here.
I was lucky enough to see Jay’s statue of Frederick Douglass in person during the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival (Eaton, MD). This year marks Douglass’ 200th birthday.
Wow what a talented modern renaissance artist-scultor-poet-writer! Thanks for sharing his lively and keen poem, and art with us Laura!
The term Renaissance Man certainly applies to Jay. Thanks, Michelle.
Jay’s poem made me laugh out loud! I am on a personal mission to send my students on knowing when to use less and fewer!
Can’t you just picture this character? I still struggle with farther and further.
What fun! Poets are all around us, aren’t they? And wow are there a slew of ways to skewer the English language… pretty sure I blunder at least once a day. Thank you, Laura! xo
I love the twist at the poem’s end — all that bravado, and then the poor soul clearly sees his job as beneath his linguistic skills.
I love the statue of Frederick Douglas, Laura. Your friend Jay is a true Renaissance man. And the poem would fit an English teacher I had long ago. She was a stickler for the usage of “fewer” and “less”, still remembered! Thank you!
When I saw the statue in June, I didn’t realize it was Jay’s work. He is a true talent!
What a delightful introduction to this creative! Thank you. I love how creativity overlaps various disciplines. I have a fascination with it. And, the poem is spectacular. Thoughtful, funny and true all in one. Hooray for the beautiful statue of Frederick Douglass. It’s needed….so needed today along with Mr. Douglass’s words.
I heard that there is a new biography of Frederick Douglass that’s worth reading — Prophet of Freedom.
Wow, what an amazing and versatile artist!
I agree! Jay gave a wonderful poetry reading. It was fascinating to hear him talk about the difference between working on a poem and working on a sculpture.
He he he! Who of us hasn’t looked up the usage of those just to make sure! What a talented sculptor, too!
Isn’t his work stunning?
This poem is a hoot! That last stanza made me laugh out loud!
You should have heard all of us cracking up at the reading, Carol!
What a great poem! I can hear when “less” and “fewer” are used incorrectly, but probably don’t get it right myself! Thank you for sharing, Laura!
Oh! I would have loved to hear him talk about the differences between working on a sculpture and working on a poem–and perhaps some similarities? What a fascinating, talented man! Thanks for sharing this chuckle-inducing poem.
Route becomes rout…Ha!
“Fewer” and “less”, and “chomping” vs “champing” are my pet peeves. Loved that poem. I have a few people I know who would love it, too…