Dear Emily Post-Avant,

I was just wondering what you thought about the Waffle House chain appointing its own Poet Laureate.

If a trend develops and other companies follow the lead of Waffle House, it could really expand the audience for poetry, don’t you think?

And open some jobs for the hordes of unemployed MFA grads, too.

We love your column!

Hopeful at Naropa


Dear Hopeful at Naropa,

Thank you for writing. Did you know I once almost met Trungpa Rinpoche? This was back in 1983, if I recall it, right before I went to Nicaragua for the second time. I was visiting an oldbeau in Boulder and I thought I’d drop by Naropa University and see whatever I might see. So I went there.

I saw Allen Ginsberg walking, followed by a duck line of students. I saw Anne Waldman declaiming and waving her arms to a class on the lawn. I saw Anselm Hollo sitting on a rock, smoking a cigarette (someone said “Hi Mr. Hollo!” so that’s how I knew it was him).

A young man, quite large, came up behind me. He was wearing a white tunic with a name tag. “May I help you?” he said. “Yes,” I said, I was wondering if I could have a meeting with His Excellency, Mr. Trungpa Rinpoche. I wanted to interview him about how he violently forced the poet W.S. Merwin and his girlfriend Dana Naone to strip in front of a whole assembly of people, including famous poets, who did nothing to stop it. In fact, they cheered on the assault, even as Merwin and Naone were cowering naked, on the floor, sobbing. I read about this in a book called The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark. Maybe you were there? It happened in 1975.

The young man looked at me, icily. He said, “It is best for your well-being if you leave immediately. You are illegally trespassing and you have clearly come here to provoke a public nuisance.”

I looked at him and said, “Listen you vacuum-skulled loser apparatchik, one day you will look back at this little encounter and realize that someone was sent by Buddha to save your ass from a cult led by a megalomaniacal drunk, and you didn’t realize it. Have a nice reincarnation.”

And so that was my visit to Naropa How’s the school doing these days? Who’s teaching there?

OK, now to your immediate question, sorry for the delay:

Yes, indeed! I predict that Waffle House has opened the floodgates. The popularity of poetry is rising, sales and reading audiences are booming, and in a few years, dozens and dozens of corporations will have official Poet Laureates. Can you imagine what it would mean for business if one of the appointees became a new Instagram Rupi Kaur?

I predict the following: You will have a Walmart Poet Laureate, a Coors Poet Laureate, an Exxon Poet Laureate, a Chick-fil-A Poet Laureate, a Carl’s Jr. Poet Laureate, a Domino’s Pizza Poet Laureate, a White Castle Poet Laureate, a Hobby Lobby Poet Laureate, a Johnson & Johnson Poet Laureate, a Disney Poet Laureate, a Wells Fargo Poet Laureate, and on and on.

All those companies I mentioned are decidedly falangist in their outlook and campaign donations, just like Waffle House. So any whore poets who accept an appointment from the likes of them will surely be cynical, desperate second-tier ones, willing to abandon any hope of cultural capital for a bit of the real kind (like the sad Waffle House bard). The most reputablewhore poets, though, will take Laureateships from liberal, DNC-approved outfits like Google, Amazon, Apple, and BMW, which will guarantee them hordes of both cultural and real capital.

Mark my words, it’s coming. And it would make for an interesting bracket pool at the tavern, eh? Matching poets to corporations, with the biggest payouts going to whoever guesses right for the “experimental” ones. What fun!

Onward towards enlightenment,

–Emily Post-Avant