Character As Destiny

It’s kind of a truism that serious poets, those who want to get somewhere, write poems every day. Deep down I’ve bought in, same way I still believe Mother was right when she declared, repeatedly, I was going to wind up a bum in the gutter. I can go there easily: a trickle of water or chill pee up against the old gray Bowery curb, some other sleazebag helping himself to my shoelaces. But when I try to maintain a steady routine for more than two or three mornings I’m tapped out—no vitality in the ideas or language.  Oh, I can edit, compose e-mails, pay bills, just not perform what I’ve accepted as my duty, prove my holy election.

 

Years ago I visited the beach alone on a cold, fog-drowned day, determined I’d write something, and must have sat for two painful hours before I had a viable thought and went on to produce a draft of one of my favorite poems. Trouble is, lacking the will and the faith, I can’t tolerate such persecution very often. Which disqualifies me as an American success story.

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