Barbara Holland

Once considered an art form that called for talent, or at least a craft that called for practice, a poem now needs only sincerity. Everyone, we’re assured, is a poet. Writing poetry is good for us. It expresses our inmost feelings, which is wholesome. Reading other people’s poems is pointless since those aren’t our own inmost feelings.

Coaches and headmasters praise sport as a preparation for the great game of life, but this is absurd. Nothing could be more different from life. For one thing sports, unlike life, are played according to rules. Indeed, the rules are the sport: life may behave bizarrely and still be life, but if the runner circles the bases clockwise it’s no longer baseball.

Poets and songwriters speak highly of spring as one of the great joys of life in the temperate zone, but in the real world most of spring is disappointing. We looked forward to it too long, and the spring we had in mind in February was warmer and dryer than the actual spring when it finally arrives. We’d expected it to be a whole season, like winter, instead of a handful of separate moments and single afternoons.

Napping is too luxurious, too sybaritic, too unproductive, and it’s free; pleasures for which we don’t pay make us anxious. Besides, it seems to be a natural inclination. … Fighting off natural inclinations is a major Puritan virtue, and nothing that feels that good can be respectable.

The thing to remember is that children are temporary. As soon as they develop a sense of humor and get to be good company, maybe even remember to take the trash out and close the refrigerator door, they pack up their electronic equipment and their clothes, and some of your clothes, and leave in a U-Haul, to return only at Thanksgiving.