Dorothea Lasky's "Poetry Is Not a Project". She talked a little bit about when she read in Boston (Cambridge) but she didn't have any copies on her at the time. I was reminded of it when catching up on some other people's blogs.
My favorite quote from the excerpts I've read:
There's so much META-poetic talk out there. Whose work is like whomever else, what KIND of poems is he/she writing, what is the poet like---gah! who CARES, right? Reading that quote and other excerpts from Dottie's book is refreshing.
What differentiates a great poet from a not-great one is the capacity to exist in that uncertain space, where the grand external world (which means anything and everything) folds into the intense internal world of the individual. In this moment, the issues of the self become one with the universal. In a poem, the poet makes beautiful this great love affair between the self and the universal. And like all kinds of love, linear intention (a plan) has nothing to do with it.
I sometimes miss that person I was who lived up in Maine in 2005 in Pittsfield, isolated from the poetry world-at-large and just finding my own way through. I mean, I did have quite a bit of contact and interaction with poets and poetry in college, because of the New Writing Series. But at the time it was happening, I had no idea how unique and, well, Impressive those experiences were. I just thought everyone had Bernadette Mayer come to their school. I thought everyone had Creeley as a guest professor. I was blissfully unaware of the specialness of it and I'm grateful for my ignorance. I was able to explore everything I was learning without concern for the outside, just what my own brain thought. The more people you know, I think it gets a little harder to experience everything for what it is. Unwittingly a sort of politics comes into play sometimes. It's just the nature of groups of people, I think. Especially highly sensitive, thoughtful and creative people, right?
But based on the bloodshed I've seen out there (see: comment fields, now closed, on Silliman blog) it's no wonder I don't have a desire to publish or share what work I'm doing with a larger audience. What's the point if it seems so often when work is published so many people's instinct is to rip it apart, if it even gets any attention at all.
Then there's all the radio chatter that's occurring in my head when I'm revising a poem. A number of voices that shouldn't matter but somehow creep in anyway. I'll leave out specifics because I never feel comfortable trashing any one person or group of people. But I will say, it's left me in such a bad place that, a year and a half later, I'm still trying to get a grip and find my own ear when it comes to making poems.
That's why it's so good to come across something like "Poetry Is Not a Project" and in particular that quote about poetry being about the poet, the universe and a gut-wrenching creating that connects the inner and the outer of everything.
When I think abut my gunshy-ness about writing poetry, I'm perplexed with myself. I'm hardly ever gunshy about anything. In addition to posting here, I also keep a site with all my recipes on it. I make vegetarian food all the time, adapting from non-vegetarian recipes and things I've tried here and there. I am completely confident when I cook. If it doesn't work out, I can fix it or retry it again and adjust next time. But I just go for it and I don't have a monster amount of voices in my head making me second guess myself. Nor am I that way when I create jewelry, which is another interest of mine. The difference, I suppose, is that the personal stakes are much less high when it comes to recipe and neacklace creating, than when it comes to writing. Plus, I'm not much listening to anyone else's opinion when it comes to the other things, and I think I've listened to too many opinions, many whose never should have mattered in the first place, when it comes to poetry.
And this is the internal struggle I go through just about every day. I'm working often to keep the blinders on, like what I like and write what feel right, but it can be difficult. I think that's why I like going to John Wiener's old apartment, or his grave, or seeing Emily Dickinson's garden. It's a way to connect with the roots of what I love and shut out all non-sense noise. It's helpful to be in the physical space of those who so aptly connected the self to the universe.
Well, I had no idea when I went to post the link to Dottie's book, I'd be going on like I have, but I'm glad I did. It's good to get ones thoughts down and sorted.