Faith K. Stern, Aesthetic Realism consultant, created the popular website beautyofnyc.org with her husband John Stern. She says:
When I first read Eli Siegel’s poem “Character Sketch,” I loved the way he gave form to self-deprecating feelings like those I’d had. And who hasn’t complained about and murkily criticized himself or herself? In the poem Mr. Siegel organizes these random, painful, and sometimes self-important musings and expresses them in musical, humorous lines that encourage us to look at ourselves freshly and critically. In his note to the poem Mr. Siegel says,
A person is the only being in the Zoological or Divine Kingdom who can be dissatisfied with himself or herself, and know it; and say it.
For me, “Character Sketch” made for greater self-knowledge as it helped me see myself—and all people—in a new and deeper way. Here is the poem:
I am no good.
No one knows it as well as I do.
Even the world I came into is not so good.
But I haven’t done with it as well as I could.
When I talk, people are not improved.
When I talk, people are often less cheerful.
When people talk, I am often less cheerful.
When I succeed, it is on a matter which doesn’t make much
———difference whether I succeed or fail.
I don’t know how to insult people: my best insults are under my
I get ordinary ailments.
I think of being distinguished, but I get afraid.
I am a scatterbrain.
Even on the subject of why I am no good, it seems I am a
Having too much good will, and for too many people, scares me
I am foolish in unknown ways.
My mistakes are monotonous.
I can be bored at the drop of a hat,
And I can bore a person at the drop of a glove.
Poetry has no steady friend in me.
The Renaissance is so far off, it seems like dim water.
I don’t know whom I’m talking to, so I talk.
I am a hodge-podge,
And I feel safe because I am a hodge-podge,
But so dissatisfied—
And also so lazy, and so afraid.