Oh, Mary

$1 Per Word

January 27, 2020
Tracy Squillace

“All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.”  –Oscar Wilde


The man seated next to me doodles his fantasy:

a woman in flowing robes, benevolent face,

eyes that caress, hands with a mystical curve.

His pencil hovers for minutes,

etching the ornament to adorn her breast.

My eyes rivet back

to the woman on my other side,

subduing the chair with her uncovered flesh,

her beefy laugh reaching corners of the room, 

crow’s feet at her quinted eyes.

I have seen her, hammer in hand,

sweat on the elbow,

sinews at attention, too breathless for a word,

her greyed hair wisping across her mouth,

no clean wrist to brush it back.

Her mouth now closed, the laugh resounds

and shoulders still heave

with pleasure of not being taut.

She gestures a hefty finger splashed with cracking paint

at the man’s sketch and demands:

“What’s that?”

In 1997, the above poem was published in the now defunct (but once distinct) national poetry anthology, Spectrum. I, the author, was overjoyed. This was finally it, I gushed. My lofty career as a brilliant poet had begun. The writing jobs would soon be pouring in. Offers to publish my work would be carefully considered, not woefully sought after. I had arrived. My pursuit of my long burning passion was finally paying off.  

Offers did come but for mere cents, not dollars, per word. $50 here. $100 there. Rent loomed. Bills stacked. I was broke and brokenhearted. My dream was cracking before me. How could I take what I loved to do and still live?

So, I started at the beginning and examined my passion with a discerning lens. What was it that I really loved about poetry? In the end, here is what I found: poetry is a form of communication, it’s just a medium to share an idea, a message. But it’s not the only way to share an idea. An idea itself can take many forms – a poem, a painting, a video montage, an op-ed in a national outlet. The fundamental truth for me was that I loved (and still love) to communicate.  

So back in 1997, I decided to take my truth and figure out how to turn my passion to profession. And I soon set my sights on another means to communicate, technical code. I found that computer language is indeed another way to create a work of art. Engineers communicate an idea, an expression, a command, through a language only a computer can understand. It may not appear flowery or prolific, but I would argue lines of code are just as expressive as lines in a well-written novel. I have seen brilliance written in Java or C++. Artists armed with CS degrees. They may be unconventional artists, maybe, but all serving their universal truth, their passion to express an idea. 

Here at Action Mary, we view communication similarly. We work with our clients to find their universal truth and design campaigns that span across the integrated landscape. That might mean their message appears as a .30 spot on their Instagram or in a feature story in a national newspaper. We take their story, their message, and translate it into forms that different audiences can best understand. 

Though my career as a poet ended before it started, I still stoke the fires of my burning passion even today. I can express an idea in a multitude of creative ways. And perhaps someday soon, I’ll be writing poetry on behalf of one of our clients for more than mere cents per word. 

One can only hope.