Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reflections: Don't F**k It Up

I invite you to consider first the words of poet, Robert Lax, concerning the role of the poet in the human project; as expressed in a 1985 interview with William Packard:

I think the question that keeps occurring to me whenever we talk about poetry, literature and the rest, is: why are we doing it? Why are we writing it, why do we talk about it, and why do societies in general, at a certain stage of their development anyway, seem to take it seriously as a thing to do. Why are we writing poetry. It is funny that in most all societies, even though poets may not be well-treated, the idea of a poet is honored. I think it has something to do with vision; that without vision, the people perish. I think the people sense that poets are or should be carriers of vision, and should be those who express it. And people sense that that is needed; that vision is always needed. So there’s always or often a place for the poet in a society, and a person who’s writing poetry probably senses too that he’s doing something that matters. And that he should be left to do it, encouraged to do it. At least not unnecessarily hampered in his pursuit.

Okay. Keeping Lax’s vision of the role of the poet in mind, please consider also, in the same light, this wonderful poem by Anna Swir; translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan:


I’m curled into a ball
like a dog
that is cold.

Who will tell me
why I was born,
why this monstrosity
called life.

The telephone rings. I have to give
a poetry reading.

I enter.
A hundred people, a hundred pairs of eyes.
They look, they wait.
I know for what.

I am supposed to tell them
why they were born,
why there is
this monstrosity called life.

Ouch. Yet, consider again Lax, from a bit further on in the same interview:

We are related to all beings on this planet and particularly are human beings: we are all parts of each other. We contribute to each other’s lives in spiritual or psychological ways. We share each other’s dreams and we exchange dreams, and visions. And as we share, the general vision we have becomes larger and sharper, becomes clearer in showing us who we are, and what we are – not only individually, but who we are as one being, as a whole person, one humanity. It all becomes clearer through this exchange of dreams and visions. And one of the regular places for this exchange is in what we call literature – in poetry, drama, in novels – in literature and the fine arts.

If you call yourself “poet” then, or “artist,” you assume a major responsibility. Don’t fuck it up.