Charles Harper Webb: “No Showman”


     —Robert Creeley, 1926-2005

The auditorium must have held

a thousand people as I squeezed in

to lean against the back wall

at the Roethke Memorial Reading

in my first year of grad school.

I knew “Drive she sd,” and “Be wet /

with a decent happiness,” and so

was stunned when the one-eyed,

goateed god of poetry read in a flat

monotone that made me wonder

if his poems had been dull all along.

I found a seat as people started

to escape like air from a slow

leak—a few at first, then more,

faster.  The room was barely

one-fourth full when, finally,

the finish came.  And then the rest

of the audience dispersed

to dorms, apartments, houses,

lugging their own thoughts,

inspirations, disillusionments

till he was left with a few friends

who, one by one, said hello / goodnight

and walked away.  Now he’s gone


Charles Harper Webb‘s latest collection of poems, Sidebend World, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in Fall 2018.  A Million MFAs Are Not Enough, a gathering of Webb’s essays on contemporary American poetry, was published in 2016 by Red Hen Press. Recipient of grants from the Whiting and Guggenheim foundations, Webb teaches Creative Writing at California State University, Long Beach.

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