April 28, 2008:
I was reading Donald Hall’s collection last night at Borders. Picture me, coffee in hand, reading a book of poetry and silently crying my eyes out. This man is brilliant. There’s one poem in there about him remembering what the autumn leaves recall in memory—associations with him and his father, playing in the leaves…the present as he watches his children walk home from a football game, him and his wife, falling in love, his father’s death, his grandparents. The farm on which he was raised. The whole cycle of life, tied up in this imagery. And written so beautifully….as if he worked his entire life to learn how to write and use words with love and care…tenderly crafting these objects (poems) of beauty so as to somehow, someday, give back, give this gorgeous gift unto the world….Hoping that maybe, someday—a woman in Fort Worth, Texas would pick up his book, read that poem, and feel something so deeply, so connected to life and the world, that she wouldn’t care if her glasses filled up with steam; she would look around at the various lives around her, busying themselves with friends and family in the same coffee shop, and feel a transcendent feeling of love for each person in that room—wondering about their lives and their fathers and their loves—what Autumn leaves hold dear to them…
To feel that beauty pass through you because this living, breathing poem—a creation—exists in the world because Donald Hall decided to dedicate his life to poetry…well, that’s just a gift. It’s just as much a gift as a doctor who saves a patient.
Life is comprised of the moments we feel most alive. I want to be able to give that gift to someone some day, too—Poetry has given me so much, enriched my life so much—I love the art; I simply love it.
I’ve been reading a lot of essays lately, written by various poets…and again, Donald Hall wrote:
“When we call the poem more important than ourselves, it is not that we have confidence in our ability to write it; we believe in poetry. No poem is so great as we demand that poetry be.”
I agree with him 100%. When someone dedicates their life to an art—it’s out of pure love for it—it’s a devotion almost, no—it is a devotion, like prayer, meditation. To me, poetry and the writing of poetry, is close to a type of spiritual meditation, or it can be. I don’t know. Maybe I’m not making any sense. But I know that I have the utmost respect and love for Poetry. I adore it. And if I’m going to try to contribute, I want to take it seriously. I want to give it my all. Like, if you were to take a relationship seriously, you’d put in an admirable amount of effort, right? To show your devotion, commitment, etc. Well, in a way, I feel like that’s how it is with me and Poetry. I don’t know why I chose it, or if it chose me, but the fact of the matter is, it’s what drives me, moves me.
Henry Moore, the British sculptor, said:
“The greatest good luck in life, for anybody, is to have something that means everything to you … to do what you want to do. … if it’s unattainable. It’s no good having an objective that’s attainable! That’s the big thing: you have an ideal, an objective, and that objective is unreachable….”
which goes quite well with another quote by Donald Hall:
“I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems. … I think we fail in part because we lack serious ambition. … If our goal in life is to reamin content, no ambition is sensible. … if our goal is to write poetry, the only way we are likely to be any good is to try to be as great as the best.”
So, if I fail—and like Keats said “I’d rather fail than not be among the best”—then at least I know I gave my heart to my first love, right? All I hope is that I give something, if just a little, back to Poetry what it has given me—joy, depth, the opportunity to feel deeply.
I just want to give people the opportunity to feel alive…like so many poets and artisit do for me, everyday—through various mediums. I don’t think socioeconomic status has anything to do with basic human observation and empathy. It’s all about being open, being a steward to each other and to life as a whole.