It’s Fat Tuesday in the blog, so I should perhaps discuss the upcoming pumpkin bread blitz, the weird cupcake extravaganza (exploding in my origami brain), or the Rolo turtles (Rolo melted on a mini-pretzel, topped with a pecan) that I hope not to burn, my excellent mashed potatoes (secret ingredients: potatoes, butter, cream) (always my Christmas dinner contribution, along with the pumpkin bread), but, after this fat sentence is over, I intend to mention two statements that were, for me, a kind of “comfort food for thought” involving poetry.
Both statements come from The Writer’s Almanac, which, like everything else, needs your financial support.
Today there is this, from James Wright, who, like me, went to Kenyon College. He’s talking about thinking he was done with poetry and discovering he was not:
“Sometimes there is a force of life like the spring which mysteriously takes shape without your even having asked it to take shape, and this is frightening, it is terribly frightening. …Being a poet sometimes puts you at the mercy of life, and life is not always merciful.”
And on Sunday, there was this from poet and novelist JimHarrison:
“Life is sentimental. Why should I be cold and hard about it? That’s the main content. The biggest thing in people’s lives is their loves and dreams and visions, you know.”
Yes, exactly! As poets we resist and fear being sentimental--that is, asking for more emotion that is warranted, or manipulating the reader (jerking the tears), or telling the reader how to feel, etc. But, sometimes, we should…yes, fear not! And remember that our “loves and dreams and visions” already connect to theirs.
Now, I could complain about male writers getting away with tender, honest statements like this and women writers getting dismissed or insulted for similar tenderness…but I won’t. That’s been said before, noticed by many. I want to be done with that and let us all speak as openly and honestly as we want in our poems.
And, anyway, the tenderness was criticized in these male writers—for instance, in this Poetry Foundation article about Wright. But tenderness seldom bothers tender-hearted me, and one of my favorite poems is “A Blessing.” Oh, how I love the tender eyes and ears of those ponies “[j]ust off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota.”
We are sentimental. Being a poet is frightening.
Fortunately, there’s chocolate. And mashed potatoes. Not together though, OK?