How’s it goin? Long time, I know. I thought I’d start off with a few poems, since that’s kind of what I do. There was a time when I was very well known for my poetry, when some critics in the late-1980s claimed I’d captured the mood of my generation, the spirit of my times, but you know how things happen in life.< Yeah, it’s been awhile!

After my mission I sunk into that despondency familiar to so many of you: the post-mission syndrome. Fortunately for literature and for art in general I turned to writing as a way of relieving my despair One poem from this period is entitled, “Thoughts on a Gray Day While Watching The Six Million Dollar Man

Peeled down to casual slacks
and shirt sleeves
I lounge on a Saturday afternoon.
Scratching my tie,
I smell:
a dinner appointment from yester year.

Yeah, thanks. You know, so many have asked me to explain the symbolism of that poem, and to unravel its levels of meanings, but I’ve always said that sometimes you need to feel more than you understand, and that profound insights cannot be taught, only experienced. I know that may challenge many of you, that some of you may feel excluded, but there it is.

Anyway, that winter at BYU I found that many of us poets liked to write in surroundings and in an environment that evoked only beauty and inspiration. I am speaking, of course, of the cafeteria at the Wilkinson Center. There I selected a table off in a corner and composed for hours on end. I was lucky to have that cafeteria, and my roommates at the time, who were just awesome, which was something I said many times on Sundays. Of course there were issues. I’ve been misunderstood, like many artists, past and present. My poems were read and re-read by thousands in Provo, some of which my roommates didn’t appreciate, like “Perry’s cooking tonight, and its fish sticks again,” or, “Doug needs a bath.” None of them were trained or well versed in contemporary literary criticism, which only added to my sense of alienation.

The poems offer clues as to how I eventually snapped out of my melancholy. One is called “Johnny Lingo and the Dance of Life.”

“Mahanna, you ugly,” he says.
I crack a grin,
the first time in months.
My teeth shine heavenward,

But my recovery wasn’t that easy. I struggled with my inner demons, and of course my problems with class registration and parking violations didn’t help! And sometimes I’d forget to carefully label with tape all my boxes of macaroni and cheese, which was all I could afford sometimes from my pay as a library exit monitor, but which were really popular with my roommates, who were really awesome.

And then Spring finally came, and with it new light and understanding. And love. Cindy and I would meet just outside the Abraham Smoot Building, the administration building on the BYU campus, affectionately known by students as, simply, the ASB. There was a spot under the flag pole where I could look out over the lawns and greenery, and receive inspiration. There I wrote, “Love Under the Flags.”

A lonely grounds crew man
mows grass fresh and clean —
like your face.

He knows nothing of the lazy splendor
of the ASB,
or the way my heart rises
with the flags,
when I see you,

Your hair brushes my arm
underneath an azure sky.
I feel prudence and frugality
surge inside,
and I want to salute.

Well, I’ll leave you with that poem. Have a good one, and don’t forget about me, the Mormon poet you sort of remember from long ago.