Philip Schultz, “What I Like and Don’t Like”

I like to say hello and goodbye.
I like to hug but not shake hands.
I prefer to wave or nod. I enjoy
the company of strangers pushed
together in elevators of subways.
I like talking to cabdrivers
but not receptionists. I like
not knowing what to say.

I like talking to people I know
but care nothing about. I like
inviting anyone anywhere.
I like hearing my opinions
tumble out of my mouth
like toddlers tied together
while crossing the street
trusting they won’t be squashed
by fate. I like greeting-card clichés

but not dressing up or down.
I like being appropriate
but not all the time.
I could continue with more examples
but I’d rather give too few
than too many. The thought
of no one listening anymore—
I like that least of all.

From Failure; two other poems from this collection, “Specimen” and “My Wife,” appeared in Ploughshares. He will be reading from Failure at the Village Community School (272 W. 10th St.) on Monday, December 3, “book party, holiday party and general good cheer to follow,” according to the event listing.

Schultz is the founding director of the Writers Studio in New York City. In an interview back in 2000, he talks about how his poetry upended his original literary aspirations: “I always wanted to be a fiction writer. I went to Iowa as a fiction writer. In my early 20s I was lucky: stories, whatever I sent out, was published. I got an agent, and I thought I’d be a novelist. Poetry is something I did with my left hand. But all that I wanted to achieve in fiction was happening naturally in poetry. The poet was supporting the fiction writer; usually it’s the other way around. But in fiction I was absolutely obsessed with writing “agenda” material, talking about material I couldn’t distance myself from to write a story. I went to poetry as a relief from that. The more frustrated I became in one, the more successful I became in the other. “

22 November 2007 | poetry |