EP&M Essay

    by Richard Moore

Small "landscaping" companies, which only require as investment a couple of lawn mowers, backpack leaf blowers, a band of illegal aliens to work them, and a truck to carry them, have become a new fad in American suburbs, where employing them is a status symbol for people working in the higher realms of technology---people who avoid lawn mowing and other inferior work so that they can have prestigious heart attacks. The "noise pollution" from such machinery is horrendous. But there are other annoyances as well, which, as annoyances sometimes do, can bring unexpected delights, like the discovery of a new ars poetica on my pre-breakfast walk this morning. On my way homeward a crew had driven up and there was a leaf blower coming toward me, the thundering machine casually filling the air with clouds of street dust. A few steps past me, the engine stopped, maybe because its operator had noticed that there were no leaves on the paved street, and in the sudden silence I shouted after him, "Do you think I like breathing the shit that you stir up with that thing?" He kept walking and gave no sign that he had heard me. But he had. My voice was loud and clear, the words simple, and his English no doubt good enough to understand them.

 In this encounter we glimpse the proper role of poetry and the other arts in modern society. The poet aims to awaken awareness. For this there has to be an audience, someone who can be made aware. So forget the deafening noise---for now at least. The leaf blower operator probably has no sense of that. But he can see the clouds of dust he is making, and he may already have begun to notice and worry about the effect of his work on his lungs. Whether he has or not, though he will almost certainly have forgotten my words within minutes after hearing them, they will stay in his mind, and maybe when he is an old man, if he lives that long, when he is coughing with asthma one day, the moment I created for him will be released from the depths of his mind, and he will understand something that he might not have otherwise. Any pleasanter, more acceptable statement from me would have dissipated into its own inanity.

It is good for a poet to forget himself, be conscious of his listeners, and have his heart set on offending them.

                                                    Richard Moore