Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I asked a friend who aspires to be a well-published poet but isn’t yet, despite his many submissions, if he’d accept this deal: You can have ten poems prominently published this year with good hopes of their being anthologized long after your death, but you can never write another poem; or you can write poems for the rest of your life but go forever unpublished. He opted for publication and fame. His ego, he said, needed that.

That’s a tough dilemma, but I think I’d choose the other way, opting for process over product. It would suffice to have the pleasure of composing poems that pleased me to have written, sand castles though they were, especially if I could share them with others who enjoyed them. I would hope to grow better in my craft the more I practiced and to explore wide vistas of subject matter and various expressive styles over many years, regardless of what was currently in vogue. I would be like amateur musicians who love to play or sing but whose performances are never recorded and only briefly remembered.

Yet I wonder if my deepest motive for writing, that which compels me to practice it assiduously, is indeed the hope of high regard and lasting recognition, the need of being impressive and worthy of remembering. I think it is. Just as it must have been for the Great Ones in literary history whose works remain revered for their grand artistry, rare innovation, and well-tempered genius.

So I hope I won’t have to face this dilemma. I hope I can keep on writing and grow better over many years, good enough to linger long in admiration—a vain hope but one that keeps me going.

(How like the sonnet’s is the form of this short essay, the sonnet it should have been.)