Thursday, June 12, 2014

living the poet life

To A Frustrated Poet

by R.J. Ellmann

This is to say
I know
You wish you were in the woods,
Living the poet life,
Not here at a formica topped table
In a meeting about perceived inequalities in the benefits and allowances offered to
employees of this college,
And I too wish you were in the woods,
Because it's no fun having a frustrated poet
In the Dept. of Human Resources, believe me.
In the poems of yours that I've read, you seem ever intelligent and decent and patient in a way
Not evident to us in this office,
And so, knowing how poets can make a feast out of trouble,
Raising flowers in a bed of drunkenness, divorce, despair,
I give you this check representing two weeks' wages
And ask you to clean out your desk today
And go home
And write a poem
With a real frog in it
And plums from the refrigerator,
So sweet and so cold.

“Aren't you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don't you often hope: 'May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.' But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death.” 

- Henri J.M. Nouwen

I was having this discussion yesterday with a friend about how we want to 'be' in the literary world. Which is really the same as pondering how we want to be.

How important is it to get your name out there, to have your books known, but also how to find the time and how to cultivate the proper inner state so that we may write well.

It was one of those conversations where you're both working things through, quite inconclusive.

I know that for me, I've spent far too much time wishing I was a poet in the forest. And maybe I've neglected, too, the self-promotion aspect. But at the same time, I think I'm generally true to who I am,  true to the writing, true to the process.

Photos from early yesterday morning.

The dog's life:


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