A person on Medium is fishing for poets, and is wise enough to know that words are the best bait. I like this. It’s daring, and vulnerable, and sweetly fatalistic. I don’t usually pick up on this kind of overture, on the rare occasions when they come my way – I’m usually the kid tuning their guitar to the whizzing sound opportunities make as they go by. But I’ve been trying to, I don’t know… put myself out there, I guess. I feel very uncomfortable drawing attention to myself or my art, but theoretically that is in some way related to success, so… here we are.
Honestly, it feels odd to refer to myself as a poet, but 66 sonnets in, this reluctance looks more and more like wilful resistance. I’m bitchy about poetry, is all – it’s so easy to do badly, and there’s so much bad poetry out there, a glutinous sea that I’m sure I’ve added a few sludgy waves to with this project. I don’t tend to seek out poetry unless it’s from the very short list of poets whose work I have yet to find a single fault in – yes, perfection is what I demand, and by my inscrutable standards, no less!
So far, although there are individual poems I’ve stumbled upon now and then that I like, there are only three poets who have met this totally unreasonable bar: William Butler Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, and James Merrill. I have never been bored, or less than completely thunderstruck, by the simplest phrase from one of these dudes. They’re all Romantics, in the artistic sense. All fundamentally of the opinion, as I am, that love is what we’re here to do, and art is how we do it.
All art is communication – an attempt to convey a perspective, to share eyes with someone else for a moment. When we make or consume art, we enter into a tacit agreement with the artist, one of great intimacy. The artist says, “I’m going to leave aside normal social constructs, and conversational etiquette, and even the fact that you’re a stranger whom I will never meet… I’m going to cut past all that stuff that protects us from each other normally, and use whatever medium I have, whatever tools or words or colors or sounds it takes, to show you what I see right now.” And you say, “Okay. Your perspective sounds interesting – let’s go ahead and get intimate.” You promise to open yourself to the experience, and the artist promises to do everything they can to meet you halfway.
Art as flirtation, and flirtation as art – and the differences can be so subtle, can’t they? – has a long pedigree. I’ve always dated artists, writers, the kind of people who can run with any stupid thing you say for a thousand words. Those moments, when you’re both throwing ideas at each other, bouncing around the room like pool balls, idea building on idea so fast that one of you cries out, “Hold on, we have to write this down!” – that’s it, my child. That’s all of it. That’s what this machine I live in was made to do, and when I do it, I feel every part of me resonating, aligned with my purpose. An arrow in flight.
We get so damn lost out here, don’t we, dear
Adrift between stars on wings so vast
whole worlds ice over in the shadows we cast –
lethal only because we won’t come near.
Come out to where the stars are far apart,
where you can stretch out all your hands and wings.
Forget about those planetary things –
out here we only care about your heart.
Something like a whale made of solar flares –
Something like a song with a meal inside –
Something like a dream you can take away –
– so at home in fathoms, she sings without air.
– a song so liquid you can imbibe.
– a fatal, mortal hope that we can stay.