Jack McGuane, former poet laureate of Lakewood, came to St. Edward on Tuesday to present some of his poems and discuss the importance of poetry to a room full of students. His passion and inspiration, though, expanded far beyond just that room.
McGuane led off his presentation reading a poem about, well, poems. Unfinished poems to be more precise. McGuane followed up the reading of the poem by saying “Our lives are all like an unfinished poem. I’m 88 years old and my life is still an unfinished poem.”
But for as unfinished as he claims his life to be, it sure as hell is an interesting one. McGuane started writing in high school and really enjoyed it, but, acting like any lazy teenager, thought it was too much work. After high school he enlisted in the navy and then went to college, majoring in business and eventually having a career in the business atmosphere. Needless to say, he didn’t have much time for writing.
As McGuane approached retirement, he spent five years considering what he wanted to do with his time and, channeling the passions of his youth he decided that he wanted to write. Thus, once he retired, McGuane began to write short stories and drifted into poetry. As he put it, “Poetry took over my life.” He has been writing poetry for eighteen years since his retirement. He has been published in various noted publications.
When I asked McGuane what his main source of inspiration for his writing was, he said “The inspiration for this is that I really can’t not do it. If I quit writing, it’ll last about a month and nI will have to do more writing.”
McGuane also surprisingly prefers to write his poems on his computer rather than by hand. Many people say that writing by hand is more valuable, but McGuane disagrees, and touts the convenience of using computers to write. His computer recently broke, so he is temporarily constrained to writing by hand, but he will log back on soon enough.
When asked about his writing method, McGuane said, “Out of the blue, some phrase will come and I have to write it down to remember or I’ll forget.” He said that sometimes he even ahas these thoughts as he’s about to fall asleep. Sometimes he’ll write something down in the middle of the night and look at it in the morning saying “What the hell is this?” But he realizes that he can write an important poem. It can take a long time sometimes, maybe even five years for a six line poem, but it is always worth it to him.
When asked what poetry does, McGuane’s response was: “It does something that you can’t do any other way.”
Poetry attempts to finished the poem of life.