Friday, July 9, 2010

Ten Years Later

I first started taking writing seriously—poetry particularly—about 10 years ago. I was 25 and wanted more than anything to be famous. Poetry was how I would achieve that goal. Possibly academia also. But mainly poetry. Because fame, to my mind, equaled greatness (though I knew many famous contemporary poets weren't that good, and some out right bad). If I was a famous poet I would by default be a great poet. And not your run-of-the-mill-great. I'm talking Rilke great.

I remember turning 26 and thinking, by this age Keats was dead. Springsteen had recorded Born to Run. I, on the other hand, hadn't even been published. I was failing.

Years passed. I moved to NYC. I turned 30. Got married and started a career as an advertising/marketing copywriter. It was around this time the poems that would make up my first book started coming together. The feeling I had then was best expressed by the Beastie Boys off of Check Your Head: "I got nothing to lose because I don't give a fuck."

It was also around this time that I went to my first AWP conference. At that point I still clung to a pretty idealistic view of poetry. All the latest trends sucked. Poetry that wasn't trying to be great in the traditional sense sucked. Basically, if you didn't have aspirations to be Milton or Keats or even some insane figure like Lowell or Berryman, you weren't going to be anybody.

But at AWP in 2006 my mind was blown by all the amazing things poets my age were doing. They were just writing, embracing the scene for what it was. Making the scene what it was. That's when idealized that to have any chance at being a real artist you had to risk losing your soul in the current trends. You had to risk selling out and being irrelevant. You had to finally say fuck it and do what you were going to do, be who you were going to be.

And fame, well, I was beginning to see that fame was dying. No one was famous any more, not even musicians. Or if they were they were totally irrelevant. The best artists seemed to be regular, approachable people quietly pursuing their lives and art. The stakes were suddenly so low and exciting. It felt like freedom. That's when poetry became for me less a goal to pursue for gain (I still had naive notions that a book or two would equal a tenure-track job somewhere). That was when poetry became a way of living and thinking and experiencing the world. And still is, despite the comparatively limited amounts of energy I now have to put toward writing and reading it.

I'm in my mid thirties. I have two children. I own a home and a minivan. I'm woefully out of touch with most of what's going in music, poetry and art in general. I read more magazines or books about political campaigns or the financial crisis than I do collections of poetry or critical theory. I used to think I would always be a poet, but I don't know any more. So many things I used to think are no longer true. I can't imagine much beyond today. I have to accept that there may come a point (besides mental incapacitation or death) where I simply stop.


Blogger Elisa Gabbert said...

Two thumbs up.

July 9, 2010 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Paige Taggart said...

Don't ever stop.

July 9, 2010 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Ben Mirov said...

rad post

July 30, 2010 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Hannah Miet said...

Yeah, I tried to think of something that was just an echo of the last three comments, but alls I got is a "fuck yeah."

September 8, 2010 at 10:12 PM  

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