Reckless Self-Improvement

Today I am two days older than John Keats will ever be.

But I can’t shake this damn cough. Some sliver of decent fall light’s leaving the windows of this room, where I’m eating a sugar-free coughdrop and listening to Leonard Cohen sing “There Is a War.” Have you wondered, other lovers, how to keep poetry up, working full-time? My latest literary babies whimper with neglect.

But the art renews itself in me. Spookily. My experience of poetic imagination has always been, like a first spiritual experience, basically epiphanic. Have you felt, other writers, how a poem kabooms in? It represents an arrival in a non-intellectual knowing (agitation, delight, distress, serenity) the poet tries to recreate for the reader.


by my man Dan Beachy-Quick (from the newest ish of Poetry)

You are for me as you cannot be
For yourself, chaos without demand
To speak, the amethyst nothing
Hidden inside the trinket shop’s stone,
Dark eyes dark asterisks where light
Footnotes a margin left blank. You
Don’t look up to look up at the sky.
Your ears parenthesize nothing
That occurs, that I keep from occurring,
In the poem, on the page, as you are
For me, not a shadow, but a shade
Whose darkness drops from no object
But is itself yourself, a form of time
Spanning nothing, never is your name.

But does this relationship with epiphany mean poetry’s religious? I don’t think so: a poet is never converted by her own poem. After all, she has to write another: a dissatisfaction, or incompleteness, leads her (it seems irreligious, really, or sexual– to crash through another declaration or arrive, helpless, at a new way of seeing). The art renews like lust or a nagging doubt.

Reckless self-improvement: I read the above DBQ poem on the clock at my job.

Oh and hear this: I was interviewed by one Paul Rippey for the Energy Links podcast series. Paul works and consults in green energy and microfinance; he wanted someone to talk to about Robert Hass’s astounding poem “Ezra Pound’s Proposition” (a literary bowtie around the human cost both of those issues, from Time & Materials) and how poetry may echo into social change.

–I look away and my Facebook front page fills. Whatever you represent, I’ll transcend. Give me something, I’ll transcend it.