My new novel, The Man in the Blizzard, is about poetry-spouting detectives who get mixed up in next week’s Republican convention. When I realized that my detectives spoke poetry, part of my research involved raiding poetry collections in bookstores and libraries to find the perfect quotables for my dudes. My neighborhood bookstore at the time was Common Good Books in St. Paul, which has one hell of a poetry section, rivaled in recent memory only by the late Hungry Mind and the great bookstore of my youth, City Lights in San Francisco. When I was sixteen and first started writing poetry, I’d spend long Saturday afternoons cruising the basement poetry section at City Lights. I sampled a couple of dozen books, trying as well as I could to get a beat on each poet’s voice. I rarely had more than a buck in my pocket in those days so couldn’t afford new books published, which cost anything from $1.75 to $2.25, so I’d amble next story to Discovery, the great used bookstore on Columbus Avenue, where you could get a book from a couple years back for 90 cents. I’d head over to Washington Square Park with my new book and feel like a junior hipster. Forty years later, my fortunes have changed a bit, and I was actually able to buy poetry books at Common Good. Now, marooned in Minnesota for a month of readings and family visits, I’ve had too much time on my hands. Too fractured in mind and spirit to work on a new novel, I’ve been knocking out poems for the first time in years. I don’t make great claims for them. I don’t even recognize my own voice as a poet. I’m really looking forward to reading next Sunday at Common Good with two real poets: Mary Logue and Bill Holm. Meanwhile, here’s a sample of what I’ve been writing:


I’ll admit, I’m confused by it.

Everybody agrees that it’s not healthy.

A guy can take a course to help manage it.

Talking about it is supposed to be the best approach.

I spend a lot of time talking to myself

but that only seems to make it worse.

Remembering to breathe is also helpful,

yet far more complicated than it sounds.

Most agree that men are more often

afflicted by it than women,

however I think we suffer it in equal measure

but simply express it differently.

To lash out with it can result in violence,

to internalize it may cause cancer.

It can look like a madman thrashing up the street

or a sullen creature chewing her nails to the nub.

The experts speak of it as something than can be displaced,

which makes me think of a constellation

in the night sky that’s suddenly gone missing.

Some people consider it an irrational act of nature.

Others rack it up with the emotions

as if it were a blameless abstraction.

I’m here to hold it responsible.

I like to blame it on other people’s stupidity and neglect

since I’ve learned how to disassociate from my own.

Or blame it on the fact that so much

that I’ve expected and deserved has not materialized.

Sometimes I like to test it,

to put on a freshly laundered white shirt

and see how quickly the fury soils it.