1. Switchblade Poetry: Chicago Style
I began writing poetry in Chicago at age 15, when I
was named corresponding secretary for a gang of
young punks and hoodlums called the Semcoes. A
Social Athletic Club, we met at various locations
two Thursdays a month. My job was to write
postcards to inform my brother thugs--who carried
switchblade knives and stole cars for fun and
profit--as to when, where and why we were meeting.
Rhyming couplets seemed the appropriate form to
notify characters like lightfingered Foxman,
cross-eyed Harris, and Irving "Koko," of upcoming
meetings. An example of my switchblade juvenilia:
The Semcoes meet next Thursday night
at Speedway Koko's.
Five bucks dues, Foxman, or fight.
Koko was a young boxer whose father owned Chicago's
Speedway Wrecking Company and whose basement was
filled with punching bags and pinball machines.
Koko and the others joked about my affliction--the
writing of poetry--but were so astonished that they
criticized me mainly for my inability to spell.
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