E.F. McSweeney scowls when he talks about "poetry syndrome," an affliction affecting poets whose verses are thick with innuendo and light on rhyme.
They are too busy "finding themselves," he said, to write anything of interest to the average American.
"Most poets, to me, are people that are fumbling around and just don't know how the cookie crumbles," McSweeney said, his face breaking into a mischievous smile.
The Hayden poet's view is evident in his straightforward sentences that invite readers to agree or disagree rather than spend time deciphering meaning.
McSweeney was so "disgusted" and bored with modern poetry as a student that he didn't take a pen to paper in verse until he was well into his 60s.
He found inspiration in the presidential campaign of 1992.
"I wanted to draw a cartoon, but I couldn't draw, so I wrote a poem instead," McSweeney said.
That first poem, "Satan and Ross Perot," opened the floodgates to more than 200 poems exploring politics, religion, nature and people -- ponderings of everyday life.
McSweeney's poems, published in various poetry collections, recently were published together in a book, "Vice Versa, Volumes 1, 2 & 3."
Although he uses some innuendo -- "I don't want it to lead the horse" -- McSweeney's writings are fairly obvious in meaning. How he delivers the message may have readers smiling or steaming.
He doesn't shy away from controversy, particularly in poems such as "Pu-litical":
"Much trivia will fall, on the floor of the hall,/ While the mob will gleefully roar,/ But the real deals are struck, by exchange of the buck,/ In those chambers behind the closed door;
Patriotic agents who band, for benefit of the land,/ With banners of intent held aloft,/ Or creatures of the world, whose tails are curled,/ Making sure of a place at the trough."
McSweeney traces many of his poems to life experience.
He was born in 1922 in Meeker and worked in the construction trades in early adulthood. He went on to work in logging shipyards and as a sheet metal and iron--worker, surveyor and electrician for a utility company.
McSweeney and his wife, Gra-ce, bought a farm near Toponas in 1960. They remained there until 1985, when they moved to Hayden. They still are involved in ranching in Routt and Rio Blanco counties -- though he emphasizes he's "not a cowboy poet."
McSweeney spins common life, such as stopping by the bar for a "quick" beer after work, into stories about human nature and consequences. In "The Short Stop," he writes:
"Loud voices throu-gh the fuzz, three days pay for this buzz,/ So much for that payment I could gain,/ Over Time was the sin, I'll say that's where I've been,/ But the pay check could give me some pain ... There in Traffic Court, stands a dejected sport,/ It's a shame that it should come to this end,/ On my next trip to the flock, I'll have to walk,/ Because my license they are sure to suspend."
All of McSweeney's poems rhyme.
"Poetry is actually music in words," McSweeney said. "Without rhyme, you don't have cadence."
His rhythmic measure has attracted more than a few calls from recording companies hoping to make his poems into country songs.
Hilltop Recording made Mc--Sweeney's poem, "She Knows Now," into a song, but in general, he is not interested in taking his poetry to that level, in part because it usually involves an upfront investment.
McSweeney also isn't interested in promoting himself. He doesn't participate in poetry readings, and he recently turned down an invitation to a poetry symposium in Las Vegas.
"I wouldn't fit in," he explained, adding -- with a grin -- that he wouldn't want to listen to the other poets.
"Vice Versa," is available at the Hayden Mercantile.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org