The New Yorker Poem

Start out with something provocative yet innocuous
like having a drink then getting into bed.
Juxtapositions like dogs, cats, white clouds, black clouds
or oxymorons like forgotten memories work well too.
If it’s somewhat plaintive or nostalgic, that’s sweet.
Even better, purport something that’s irritating you to be universal –
like treachery or the nature of women.

Follow your opening by slipping into something a bit
more obscure. Write about attics or islands or
anything dark – dubious childhood calamities
provide excellent fodder. So does prison and poverty.
Throw in an evil tyrant. Psychological trauma is highly
effective as long as you don’t actually say
you’re writing about psychological trauma.

Next, insert an enigma:
the obfuscated shroud of nocturne gleaming
Choose one that sounds deceptively simple
but has no basis in physical reality or logic
(after all, this is poetry)

In lieu of an enigma, make allusions to the work
of some unpublished nineteenth-century poet.
References to Quantum Theory work nicely
as long as they’re neither here nor there.
Or, just hang an italicized preposition at the end of a line. It.

Just before wrapping things up add some irony.
Death is an excellent source of irony. So is stupidity.
Also, anything to do with bureaucracy. The opposite
sex as a source of irony is no longer applicable on either coast
and in certain parts of Minnesota. Stick with death.

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