I’ve been at it so long, I suppose it’s inevitable that often, when I sit down to work, I’m reminded of other things I’ve written. I’ve covered a lot of ground — not always well, certainly, but the old lines and images keep surfacing and reappearing, and it’s not unusual for them to arrive in the form of a lesson. One of the greatest of these lessons is, Don’t be clever. Being clever is as cheap as it is easy, and it turns everything into literary ad copy.
I have to dig deep, down to the bone, to the raw central nerve of myself even to begin to discover what I understand of this life. And when I grow lazy and lose my curiosity and focus, I must still be able to recognize it and steer clear of the wreckage. I must throw my ego overboard, or the ship will sink. And even words like these are dangerous. How easy it is to be clever, smug, and self-satisfied! — until I remember, for the ten thousandth time, that nothing I know or can do really belongs to me; it’s only on loan from life and the human race. The light can go out at any moment. What value will my cleverness have then?
this will be
this will be the poem I write when I am dead
no shades of meaning and even less articulate
until you dig
Poems, Slightly Used, July 31, 2010