The name Homer Lipshitz doesn’t ring a bell for most of us, but he turned out to be quite famous. Born in the Bronx to a Cockney mother and American father, he started writing poetry when he was a child. He was always late for everything as he was a shithouse poet who spent too much time on the pot doodling away his poems at home on the bathroom walls, much to his mother’s irritation. His mother often called out, ‘Omer cum on! which he later tweaked to his pen name, Omar Khayyam. As you may guess, this prolific writer decorated the walls of every public washroom stall in the area.
His early attempts to publish were flops but he wrote with passion for his girlfriend, Ruby Yates,who dumped him for a local trash collector. Perhaps in depression, while he was wondering, “Where is Ruby at?”, he changed the poems he dedicated to her to the Rubaiyat. He also modified the earlier version of ‘A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou; from ‘a hunk of bread, a cup of booze, and youse’. Often attributed to Kahlil Gibran, he also tweaked his famous marriage advice ‘let there be spaces in your togetherness’ from the earlier ‘get the hell away from me’. Just goes to show what perseverance and a broken heart can do for poetry.
by Ron Langevin