How to be a Poet (to remind myself)Make a place to sit down. Sit down. Be quiet. You must depend upon affection, reading, knowledge, skill-more of each than you have-inspiration work, growing older, patience, for patience joins time to eternity Breathe with unconditional breath the unconditioned air. Shun electric wire. Communicate slowly. Live a three-dimensional life; stay away from screens. Stay away from anything that obscures the place it is in. There are so unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places. Accept what comes from silence. Make the best you can of it. Of the little words that come out of the silence, like prayers prayed back to the one who prays, make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came.
Johnson, who defines as 'metrical composition', defines as 'An inventor; an author of fiction; a writer of poems; one who writes in measure'. We can gauge how far we have traveled by comparing this with the Shorter Oxford Dictionary which, after a definition very like Johnson's, feels obligated to add 'A writer in verse (or sometimes in elevated prose) distinguished by imaginative power, insight, sensibility, and faculty of expression'.
An artist is identical with an anarchist,' he cried. 'You might transpose the words anywhere. An anarchist is an artist. The man who throws a bomb is an artist, because he prefers a great moment to everything. He sees how much more valuable is one burst of blazing light, one peal of perfect thunder, than the mere common bodies of a few shapeless policemen. An artist disregards all governments, abolishes all conventions. The poet delights in disorder only. If it were not so, the most poetical thing in the world would be the Underground Railway.''So it is,' said Mr. Syme.'Nonsense!' said Gregory, who was very rational when any one else attempted paradox.
Could it be that this house is haunted?I'm face to face with shapeless shadow,Though I stand alone.Could it be that there's a presenceInside this house,Besides my own?The garden fades from green to grey,The fading focus of Goodbye.I let out a sigh.I swallow the urge to cry.Out of this house and onto the street...Vacant, empty spaces in the faces I meet.Anywhere on earth, Any time of day,The echoed sound of all I say,Of all I hear and in all I see...Shadows,Phantom faces,Not haunting places. Haunting ME.
The artist (I suppose) usually pays for the privilege by some sort of partial insomnia, by the possession of one faculty that will not be controlled nor put to sleep. In a poet this must often be the visual imagination, bringing before his eyes a succession of images which he never summoned, and of which some (it is only too likely) will be ugly or pitiful.
All of us,' he said, 'have hopes of being poet, artist, discoverer, philospoher, scientist; of possessing the attributes of all these simultaneously. Few are permitted to achieve any of them in daily life. But in travel we attain them all. Then we have our day of glory, when all our dreams come true, when we can be anything we like, as long as we like, and, when we are tired of it, pull up stakes and move on. Travel -- the solitude of the mountains, the emptiness of the desert, the delicacy of the minaret; eternal change, limitless contrast, unending variety.' (Eric Lang)
Growing up, I'd already decided I wanted to be a beatnik. A Bohemian poet, I thought. Or a musician. Maybe an artist. I'd dress in black turtlenecks and smoke Gitanes. I'd listen to cool jazz in clubs, getting up to read devastating truths from my notebook, leaning against the microphone, cigarette dangling from my hand.