The Age of Poetry

They say that poetry’s a young man’s game,
indulged while still limber, lithe, and healthy
enough to dance all night with energy.
Without concern for funding and fickle fame,
artists, in their youth, burning with passion’s flame,
can better ignore the bruises of poverty,
the mortgage, the life insurance policy,
the child’s tuition. These lay on them no claim,
and derelictions induce no sense of shame.
I’m not suggesting they lack integrity.
In fact, their guiltless insobriety
reminds me that I was once more fierce, less tame.

Arthritis cracks my joints, my hair’s now thin,
my memory’s sporadic at best, my heart
stutters, my eyes weep, my bowel condition
strands me home alone or at least apart
from those I crave, loose dentures slur my diction.
Although my health and brain have begun to depart
for remote destinations, my imagination
still has a full head of hair, and I start
my muses waltzing in feeble composition.
The frailty of age is not for the faint of art.



Because my poems are somewhat comic,
they get dismissed by every critic
for lacking gravity and weight,
as though the grim and desolate
were the only themes appropriate
for poetry. I hesitate
to compare myself to Byron, but
you can’t deny he managed to cut
a gay and frolicking caper or two in
that smiling satire of his, Don Juan,
while he skewered society’s foibles,
its parchments, mores, dead bibles.
He knew the secret of how to write:
art should convey both light and delight.


Michael Skau is an emeritus professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He was named Winner of the 2013 William Kloefkorn Award for Excellence in Poetry, and his collection of poems, Me & God, was published by Wayne State College Press in 2014. WordTech Editions published his chapbook After the Bomb in 2017.

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9 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    A wonderful, witty way
    To start a weekend day!

    “My imagination still has a full head of hair.”

    “The fragility of age is not for the faint of art.”

    “Art should convey both light and delight.”

    Aphoristic agility—for the aged and the ages!

    Thank you, Mr. Skau.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Dear Prof. Skau —

    You are quite correct about the ingrained prejudice against any kind of comic verse these days. The standard critical jargon is to call it “light” verse, with the implication that it is lightweight and unserious.

    This is a direct result of the deliberate mystification and pretentiousness of modernism, which consciously compels its practitioners into the fatuous pose of oracular declamation. No poet can expect praise today unless he puts forth the persona of one making a profound statement — even if his poem is merely about some stupid little epiphany he had while crossing the street.

  3. Monty

    I’m curious as to who’s reffered to in the very first word of ‘The Age . . ‘.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      It’s exactly the same meaning as the French “On dit…” or the Spanish “Se dice..”

      • Monty

        Ah, I see: as in the general term ‘so they say’ (or ‘ils ont dit’).

      • Michael Skau

        Thanks, James A. Tweedie, for your kind appreciation. I also appreciate the perceptive clarification by Joseph S. Salemi and Monty and the positive responses by James Sale and Trevor Siggers.

  4. James Sale

    Witty, enjoyable, droll – I liked these a lot, especially that last line: ‘The frailty of age is not for the faint of art.’ Well done.

  5. Trevor Siggers

    What resonance, what truth what smiles you bring to start this today.
    Thank you.
    Trevor across the pond in Leek


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