I work with some superbly talented writers. You’d expect copywriting, speech-writing, prose and journalism to be given qualities in my trade, but I’m also surrounded in my daily life by poets, one or two colleagues who I suspect may be secret novelists, and some superbly incisive communicators. I take my hat off to them.
But I want to share some of my own writing heroes.
This is the first. Edgar Guest was a Detroitian staff writer who contributed a daily poem to syndicated newspapers in the early twentieth century. His verse is tight, simple, and above all wonderfully perceptive and entertaining at once. This, part one, is a lovely paternal conceit-piercer. We love it in my house: it’s good to be self aware!
My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;
He tells us children every day
Just what should now be done.
He knows the way to fix the trusts,
He has a simple plan;
But if the furnace needs repairs,
We have to hire a man.
My father, in a day or two
Could land big thieves in jail;
There’s nothing that he cannot do,
He knows no word like “fail.”
“Our confidence” he would restore,
Of that there is no doubt;
But if there is a chair to mend,
We have to send it out.
All public questions that arise,
He settles on the spot;
He waits not till the tumult dies,
But grabs it while it’s hot.
In matters of finance he can
Tell Congress what to do;
But, O, he finds it hard to meet
His bills as they fall due.
It almost makes him sick to read
The things law-makers say;
Why, father’s just the man they need,
He never goes astray.
All wars he’d very quickly end,
As fast as I can write it;
But when a neighbor starts a fuss,
‘Tis mother has to fight it.
In conversation father can
Do many wondrous things;
He’s built upon a wiser plan
Than presidents or kings.
He knows the ins and outs of each
And every deep transaction;
We look to him for theories,
But look to ma for action.