This Old Poem #49:
Roseann Lloyd’s We Didn't Have the Words Then
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 2/22/03

  Fairness prompts me to tell the reader up front that I have known Roseann Lloyd & her terrible poetry personally for about a decade now. She’s 1 of the terrible cabal of small-time Minnesota college professors who delude themselves in to thinking they have writing talent, & spread their poison out in to the community at large by teaching at workshops & such. As penance for such dastardly deeds she, as so many others have, has spent time going to 3rd World countries to teach art. The theory being that if she can help dumb down a foreign culture as much as her own she is not really a negative influence. Not that RL is a bad person, although she’s been known to get snippy when confronted with her lack of talent, but 1 wonders where people like this ever got the idea they had talent. Oh, yes, I forgot- writing is an exercise in purgation of 1’s own feelings of personal, sexual, & political impotence. In this manner RL is at the vanguard, as many of the wretched poems that infest her books of doggerel play out her tics, neuroses, & general lack of self-esteem. Her poems are really just prose broken in to lines, they have no music, no verbal nor mental pizzazz, & the only reason for there creation seems to be to foster the sense that poetry, & art in general, are avenues for people to explore mental health problems- of which RL seems eager & willing to expose her assorted maladies. In fact, so utterly without merit is any of her writing that my wife has often laughed out loud at 1 of the blurbs from RL’s 1st book Tap Dancing For Big Mom: ‘Roseann Lloyd’s mind is a tropical jungle.’-  Madeline DeFrees. Whatever the hell this is supposed to mean is beside the point- DeFrees is probably a pal or crony who was returning a favor for some blurb RL cast her way.
  That 1st book, published in 1985 by the abominable Minnesota publisher New Rivers Press, was laden with trash. Check out this sample from The Gross Poem: Confessions of the Ten-Year-Old:

are just as bad. Whatever you do
don't look at them when they eat.
Their food runs back
out of their mouth. They will smear
wet crackers on your shirt.
They are gross. I'm glad
I'm not one of them
anymore - I suppose the reason
my mom could stand to take care of me is
because she
is so fat and gross

  Just look at this supposed poem told from a supposed child’s POV. This stanza is laden with the utter lack of attention RL denies all her poems- at least 5 bad enjambments, not even an attempt at musicality, & is there any image that is poetic, or even a juxtaposition of banalities that could be construed as poetic? No. RL simply wants to rant, in this poem, about how gross people & other things are. But what’s the point if no art is even posited? Why not just make a list, spit-stick it to your bosom, & spare true poetry lovers the pain?
  Because she’s part of a business designed to wear down any notion that quality in poetry exists. If all poets write as badly & generically as her, a truism if you’ve kept up with the craft these last 3 decades, then no one is a ‘bad’ poet- although no one is good, either: true democracy. The real objective of this anomic stance is to demoticize all art to a gray slime.
  Do you really wanna know more about RL- you’ll be sorry. Not much to tell, but here’s a snip of her official bio from her beau- noted Twin Cities doggerelist Jim Smith, who houses on his CyberPoet site:

    Roseann Lloyd grew up in Springfield, Missouri and currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was educated at the University of Minnesota and completed her B.S. and M.A. degrees there. Later, she lived in the Pacific Northwest and studied at the Poetry Workshop at the University of Montana with Richard Hugo, Madeline DeFrees, and Tess Gallagher. After her studies there she returned to Minnesota and published her first book, Tap Dancing for Big Mom, in 1986. She continued to write poetry, as well as taking on editing, nonfiction, and translation projects. Along the way, she received fellowships and awards for her poetry and her editing; she has published a total of seven books, which are listed after this biography.
  Lloyd currently lives in Minneapolis and holds adjunct teaching positions: at Augsburg College and in the Hamline MFA/MALS graduate program. She served as the Poetry Editor of Water~Stone: Hamline Literary Review, Fall, 1999, and for the last three years she has curated the reading series at the Blue Moon Coffee Cafe, sponsored by S.A.S.E.-The Write Place. Every winter, she leads cold northerners to a poetry class in Antigua, Guatemala. Lloyd has given readings of her work at the Loft, at local coffeehouses, and at independent bookstores such as the Hungry Mind (now Ruminator) Bookstore in St. Paul, Orr Books in Minneapolis, Elliot Bay Books in Seattle, Annie's in Spokane.
  Lloyd has supported herself and her poetry doing free-lance writing and teaching. In the 80s she worked in the Compas Writers-in-the-Schools Program and taught poetry classes at the Loft; she's worked with teacher-training programs for teaching creative writing in the classroom.
  Lloyd has also worked in community programs: teaching poetry classes at a treatment center for adolescents and at the Sexual Violence Center, a center for both women and men who have experienced sexual assault. Some of her teaching strategies for therapeutic writing classes are included in her book Journey Notes: Writing for Recovery and Spiritual Growth. Among Lloyd's community projects, the one that has perhaps reached the most people is the "Silent Witness Memorial," a traveling exhibit in honor of Minnesota women murdered by their partners in 1991. This public arts project was created by a group of artists and writers and has inspired similar projects around the country.

  Note the 3rd World exploitation, the PC thrusts, the incestual networking- note that the blurbist DeFrees is a former teacher. Ugh! Let’s hit the titular crap. I’m gonna put the 2 versions back-to-back, & then compare, so you can see what is so bad in the original version:

We Didn't Have the Words Then
-for Turid

But now that we do we cover the distance
of thirty-eight years in a few hours.

Manic-depressive. Incest. Class. The capacity
to choose.
Then what happens? Yoga

on the sunny deck. Talk of less important mysteries.
What is the price of deck furniture

when you want to follow the sun all day and don't
want to have to keep moving your chair?

Why do men in the Shetland pubs scowl at Norwegians?
Do rowan trees grow in the States? Do I look like a matron?

Now it's time to check the leaves on the broken
branch, the cherry tree we duct-taped last night. And now

there's a radio program, an actor reading from a book,
a book we took to heart, each from our own side

of the Atlantic: "You must never believe that you know anything,
You must never believe that anyone cares about you."

The childhoods we have now survived. Strong coffee
with cream. Blue clouds. Islands in the fjord.

Even a few cigarettes. Smoke and talk of the winter darkness.
Sundown in the Caribbean. "Vi skulle jo få glede av livet."

By the end of the afternoon, the laundry basket is empty—
a dozen of Rolv's dress shirts, one embroidered blouse,

five work blouses, matron slacks—huge fuchsia zinnias—
and five woven tablecloths

hang smooth and fresh, the smell of ironing
blending with the sweet hydrangeas growing thick on the stone wall.


We Didn't Have the Words Then
-for Turid

Now that we do we cover
thirty-eight years in a few hours.

Then what happens?

Talk of less important mysteries. 
Check the leaves on the broken branch,

the cherry tree we duct-taped last night.
By the end of afternoon, the laundry

basket is empty- and five woven tablecloths
blend with hydrangeas thick on the stone wall.

  Note how much is added by subtraction. In the rewrite we have a speaker who is recounting some past ‘thing’. Something occurs, the speaker demurs- why? The speaker looks around, time passes swiftly, & we get a symbolic end that could be interpreted in many ways. A great poem? No, but the beginning of something which could be very good. Let’s gander back at the original. The speaker is bathetic & maudlin, as well as self-conscious. We know what the troubles are. Instead of the mysteries being mysterious they are enumerated. We get the obligatory quotation, & then a quote in a foreign tongue- I believe Norwegian. Why? To show how smart the poet & the speaker are. We get the winter darkness & posturing, as if from a European film. The poem ends & we know all the regrets & losses the speaker has suffered- but no artistry leaks through. The mention of flowers at the end, unlike the rewrite’s symbolism, is merely an affectation to suggest a faux epic sweep out away from the poem’s described travails.
  A fitting end to a poet that tries to equate depth with laundry lists, but for those who appreciate real poetry just read the rewrite. These sorts of poems leave me in a precarious position. I could go on & on about how truly bad this poem is, or merely let its overwritten self undo itself. I trust you. Goodnight, Mary Ellen.

Final Score: (1-100):

Roseann Lloyd’s We Didn't Have the Words Then: 25
TOP’s We Didn't Have the Words Then: 65

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