To paraphrase Theodore Roethke, one of the greatest poets to ever bleed on page, “Poetry is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It’s what everything else isn’t.” And to expand on my first pseudo-mentor Charles Bukowski, “When you’re a cup of coffee away from brimming with total mad darkness but are still imbued with that love of life, you’ve got to repeatedly empty yourself. Again and again.” But that (my) love of life is very uncompromising, especially when my very being in on the line. My love demands that I not use this means of calculated spilling as a substitute for sobbing or acrobatics; that I not waste its time by masturbating in public like that. It demands that I be whole, and nothing less, if only for a while.
What I’m trying to say is that Bukowski introduced me to poetry, but he confuses me a lot these days; he re-reads like he’s mired in self-pity and drops names like association will shine the tar away. He’s very drunk. And my love keeps me sober, and stoic these days (for the most part). Maybe I’m growing up, I don’t know. “Don’t ever get the idea that I’m a poet,” Charles wrote, and so we shouldn’t. And so I don’t, and instead I bend my ear towards Brenda Hillman as she writes it best, “Once it seemed the function of poetry was to redeem our lives. But it was not. It was to become indistinguishable from them.”
It’d be easier to answer with why I’ve stopped writing poetry: See, William Bronk wrote a poem that asks of us, “Corals and shells, shall we ever cover a land?” and my stubborn love won’t leave me well with any answer less wholesome than that question. I wake up and it yells at me. And I cover my ears, which is ironic and perfect I guess.
I write poetry because I find myself wandering in circles. Sometimes it’s maddening, sometimes it’s wonderful, sometimes it’s lonely, sometimes it’s enlightening, sometimes it’s pointless, most times it’s all and so savagely overwhelming I need to sit and slow down to spill it all so pseudo-intellectually for just a little while and God would that make a drunkard out of any of us.
Drunkard Stoics Unanonymous sounds like a good way to put things. Member total, one. Some weeks I show up, some weeks I don’t. Honestly, all in all, as to why— I am as lost as you. Most likely more so.
It’s 4am. Nasruddin leaves the tavern and walks the town aimlessly. A policeman stops him. “Why are you out wandering the streets in the middle of the night?” “Sir,” replies Nasruddin, “if I knew the answer to that question, I would have been home hours ago!”