A Place in the Procession
Long long ago I dreamed this: an old soul, mud-colored, thin, ropy-haired, hunkers at a campfire. A line of naked youth has formed on the lip of a cliff. The old one is reciting the history of poetry. And as he intones, the youth dive from the cliff one after another. Presumably there is water below.
I would like to sit around with people I like and people about whom I haven’t made up my mind yet and drink wine and eat a crazy salad with my meat, talking straight poetry. It wouldn’t matter if anything were written down or not. The words would burn into our brains. I’ve always preferred the communal aspect of art to the solitary. That is, I feel complete when it is shared, and when it is being made, alone, in the dark, I feel like a spider who has to get that web made because she’s hungry. She’s always hungry. I have a spidery hand, and I try to get it to transmit to my mind, and then I try to make it attractive enough to draw others in. They say Walt Whitman’s beard drew butterflies.
It’s harder for me to feel that dreamy about poetry nowadays. The art is thoroughly divorced from the multi-million–dollar spectacles that play to the numbers, and entropically inclined from within. It does hang in there. Poetry will not go quietly. You would have to starve it out, and it can live on very little. Hunger and love move the world, didn’t Schiller say.
Poets are mostly voters and taxpayers, but the alienation of the poet is a common theme. Among poets there is also probably a higher-than-average rate of clutch burnout, job turnover, rooting about, sleep apnea, noncompliance, nervous leg syndrome, depression, litigation, black clothing, etc., but this is where we live, or as Leonard Cohen put it, Poetry is the opiate of the poets.
There are other honorable paths, if I may without explanation call this one honorable, but they are not necessarily chosen, and they are not necessarily binding the way poets choose and bind.
The decade-long disturbance over fragmentation and wholeness aside, I would say poetry provides a place in the procession, and in so doing it keeps us intact, one after another. This is an altogether beautiful position from which to leap.