A couple of years ago, I received a letter from Nike asking me if I wanted to try my hand at writing an ad for them. They said they’d read one of my poems, and they thought I had a gift. And they’d pay me to try. I called to be sure. Yes, this wasn't a joke. Even if I failed miserably, Nike would send a nice check in the mail.
I thought about it. I remembered a high school English teacher who, like so many English teachers, fancied himself the next great American poet, but his greatest success was an ad for instant coffee. His ad was something like: What smells like, tastes like, is like fresh ground coffee?
But I was told a one-liner would not do. The Nike spokesperson seemed to think I might want to tell a little story in my ad, and maybe use some rhyme scheme, you know, compose some genuine poetry.
I tried to explain that I am not into rhyme schemes. I am not sure about the stories my poems tell. Or how genuine my poetry is . . . . I tried to warm them. But to no avail.
At the time, Nike was in the news for it’s sweatshops in third world countries, so I didn’t think I owned any Nikes. I tried not to, anyhow. But I did find a pair of draw-string Nike sweats. And I really liked them. All the elastic was long gone, and the pants were so thread-bare, they almost felt like they weren’t there. So I wrote this nice little ad. And several others.
Are you, too, looking for something
new in your life?
Something that's more you?
Do you want that special something
that protects you from the influx
of unwanted news, loneliness, despair,
That let's you feel as if you are outside
in the summer air, strolling down the sidewalk
or sandy beach feeling nothing but the wind
in your hair? No chafing at your soul
or pinching at your wrists
and waist, no endless lists
of reminders and regrets,
no unsettling fears of, oh shit,
or what's next? Do you often say, fuck this?
How about a nice pair of drawstring pants?
AWP in Minneapolis, and recommended reading
2 weeks ago