I recognized a knack for the epigram when I still thought there is a place in school for such things. In a class run by Lewis Turco at SUNY Oswego in 1972, I heard the epigram described as “terse verse, with a twist.” Cool, I can dig that.
What I couldn’t dig then was any deeper into the subconscious, where poems come from. I remember how very hard it was, then, for me to compose anything but epigrams and other doggerel. (full disclosure: As a kid, I was too scared to look that deep inside.)
My ditty “How to sketch a napping cat/is how to catch a moment fat/with felicity” was quoted to me by a stranger in a college bar after publication in the college literary magazine – that kind of creeped me out, since I wasn’t wearing my “I’m a poet, chat me up” beanie that night.
Now, half a century since market forces reined-in poetry for delivery to their partners in the academy, I think we have arrived at the epigrams day in the sun. As good as that is for pithy poets, it reflects, too, the imminent death of reading.
Reading is the thing that unites author and reader in the reader’s imagination. However, most are content with the passivity and ease of listening – some are couch-bound all day long. Who can blame them? “Get me pizza, then curate a playlist of dixieland + disco, then read me to sleep, smart speaker!”