I is for immortality, which for some poets is a necessary compensation. Presumably miserable in this life, they will be remembered when the rest of us are long forgotten. None of them asks about the quality of that remembrance--what it will be like to crouch in the dim hallways of somebody's mind until the moment of recollection occurs, or to be lifted off suddenly and forever into the pastures of obscurity. Most poets know better than to concern themselves with such things. They know the chances are better than good that their poems will die when they do and never be heard of again, that they'll be replaced by poems sporting a new look in a language more current. They also know that even if individual poems die, though in some cases slowly, poetry will continue: that its subjects, it constant themes, are less liable to change than fashions in language, and that this is where an alternate, less lustrous immortality might be. We all know that a poem can influence other poems, remain alive in them, just as previous poems are alive in it. Could we not say, therefore, that individual poems succeed most by encouraging revisions of themselves and inducing their own erasure? Yes, but is this immortality, or simply a purposeful way of being dead?The quote makes me happy, giddy, really and it also reminds of the following quote from Ted Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Manual:
Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world. And I’d like a world, wouldn’t you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I’m certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don’t think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.I like adding to energy, and creating poems to the whole process of creation seems like adding energy to me. Further, all of this rings of some kind of spiritual and moral life. These things are also close to my heart. I live a life of some sort of spiritual discipline, hoping to add to the good in the world.
There are so many arguments that poetry is dead but I don't think that is true. It's not just these quotes that make me think that but the way in which I see poetry working in the communities around me. I see poetry as a healing conduit, a way that people connect, share, vent, transform, understand, make connections and build dialogues. Perhaps what is dead is the ego in poetry. The Poet's work is for all not just for one. I think it's probably always been that way, despite any of our initial hope and search for glory.