A Grammar Workshop | By William Doreski
The New York School of Poets
has become a grammar workshop
meeting in the diner’s back room.
Ashbery parses favorite
intransitive verbs, Joe Brainard
diagrams complex sentences,
Koch weighs the weightier nouns,
Barbara Guest fondles prepositions,
James Schuyler handles conjunctions
with his usual pastel flare.
I’m not a member, not allowed
to overhear deliberations meant
to inform the aesthetic elite.
But they hired me to sit outside
and check credentials against
a guest list and bounce all
frustrated Boston wannabees
lacking skyscraper perspective.
Here’s Frank O’Hara sporting
a sheaf of lunch poems thick enough
to feed a battalion of readers.
I recognize him at once
and wave him down the passage
past the grill and deep-fat fryers.
He looks happy as Clarabelle,
his fatal accident forgotten.
When the workshop ends, a clutch
of empowerment exits, grinning.
I enter the room to empty ashtrays
and cart away the coffee cups.
The air still tingles with wit.
Next week if they won’t let me in
I’ll bug the room and record them.
They would probably approve
of this gesture to early Auden,
the spy a dramatic trope
ripened by taking a risk.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.