Christopher Robert Craddock, Poet.
My name is Christopher Robert Craddock, but if I were writing a novel I would use only my middle initial. I mean, instead of my middle name. Christopher R. Craddock. Not just R, by its ownself. That would be weird. A novel approach. Though there was a poet who went soley by the letter H.
e. e. cummings used only lower case, and Hubert Selby Jr. eschewed punctuation altogether. But in retrospect that sort of falderall seems like cheap gimmickry. My cousin Billy was a brilliant novelist and he went by William J. Craddock. His middle name was James, named after our uncle Jim. So, if I were to write a novel I would sign myself as Christopher R. Craddock, though for poetry it is somehow too short, too abrupt.
As for my cousin William J. Craddock, he was a prodigy who had his first novel published before he was 25. He had a second book published, Twilight Candelabra
, and finished a few other books, but gave up on writing novels. I think his publisher had him under contract, so he couldn’t publish with anyone else. Also, even if the book somehow became a best seller, he would not be paid anything more. He was bitter but mellow. Like, he had already crossed it off his bucket list and could therefore coast, resting on his laurels. I saw him shortly before his untimely passing in 2004 and he told me not to make the mistake he made, to sign away all rights to future royalties. In a way, I felt like he was telling me that I would be a writer, passing the torch on to me with the stipulation that I not make the mistake he made. Don’t drink from the poison wells in the oasis. His legend had always loomed large and was intimidating for me. He being a genius prodigy, who burned, burned, burned brightly like one of Kerouac’s fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and me being more of a late bloomer–or a late boomer–as our generation was known. I came in on the tail end of that comet, and it was uncertain if I would even bloom at all, much less make a boom. As T. S. Eliot said:
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
I went to San Francisco State University and got a BA in Creative Writing, but haven’t done much with it. I think that my cousin felt like I could be a writer–was a writer–could have been a contender. Of course, it was too late for me to be a prodigy, but maybe he had just peaked early. My father, before he passed away, also believed in me. He said, “If you live to be my age, and you write 4 books a year, you can still write 100 books.”
I’m a little behind schedule, but if we take away the requirement that I have to finish before I am 25, then I can easily pass up cousin Billy. 3 books? Or maybe 100? Somewhere between those numbers? Yeah. It’s doable. Indubitably.
I was recently published in an anthology that Professor Matthew Woodman, the current Poet Laureate of Kern County put out. He listed my full name, because I forgot to tell him that I wanted the middle initial only. But when I saw my name in print, I thought it looked much classier. Like, William Butler Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe, or Gerard Manley Hopkins. Those are some of my influences, too, by the way. I like lots of stuff besides classic poetry. My ecclectic tastes range from Gerard Manley Hopkins to Lightnin’ Hopkins, from William Blake and William Shakespeare to Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt.
I remember writing a poem when I was about five years old. It was a naïve effort that used obvious rhymes, but I was inspired to write poetry. For some reason I was late learning how to read. I made it through to the 2nd grade before I could read. I was inspired by Dr. Seuss, and we had a record of one of his books, Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Even though I could not read, I memorized the whole story by listening over and over to the record. I liked the royal magicians the best. The king was bored with the same old weather and wanted something new. He called them in and they said they could make oobleck. “What is that? What will it look like?” asked his royal highness.
“Won’t look like rain. Won’t look like snow.
Won’t look like fog. That’s all we know.
We just can’t tell you any more.
We’ve never made oobleck before.”
Once I learned how to read in the 2nd grade I vaulted into the Blue Birds, the elite group of advanced readers. I remember voraciously devouring The Wizard of Oz and other books from L. Frank Baum. I read other Dr. Seuss books, but that got me into trouble when our teacher read us Yertle the Turtle, and spoiler alert: just before the punchline, I burped.
Well, I didn’t get the laughs I was looking for, and I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. Here is one of my poems that was inspired by my interest in music and the guitar. I wrote it for the anthology, Kern Sounds.
Pat Martino Had a Stroke
A deadline is always a good incentive for me to finish something. For the Open Mic I sometimes just arrive a half hour or so before the “show” and start scribbling. I’ve also tried just improvising. Making it up on the spot, like a jazz solo. Mixed results. Wish I had written some of it down, and grateful that I didn’t write the rest down.