Your Witness

On Rejection & Resistance

Unwanted, fine. “I am not at all mortified, when sometimes I see my Works thrown aside by Men of no Taste nor Learning. There is a kind of Heaviness and Ignorance that hangs upon the Minds of ordinary Men, which is too thick for Knowledge to break through. Their Souls are not to be enlightened.”

My job—my vocation—is to read increasingly, to write: “Try to praise the mutilated world.” Not for the sycophant’s gushing embrace and cheap exaltation. “You must be prepared to work always without applause.”

Clearly, without alteration shocking and heretical, our days are numbered. Warmth, sunlight, budding green—it may not appear that drought continuously predominates.

I register distress, tasked with protesting “my own daily sorrow of being flooded by unsolicited bad verse.” Where do we stop?

“In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.”

“Young writers should be encouraged to write, and discouraged from thinking they are writers.” Their proper aim: learning how to read judiciously, how to apply voice.

“It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal wound—that he will never get over it. That is to say, permanence in poetry, as in love, is perceived instantly. It hasn’t to await the test of time. The proof of a poem is not that we have never forgotten it, but we knew at sight we never could forget it.”

A Vision

In the factory I heard the gulls cry;

The wind distressed me as it came.

Burning of machines in a single eye

Leaves mind a fragment of hammers and hurt noise—

Who shall enter the bodies of workers, the dream

Electric; who touch the spent souls; what voice

Like God’s shall come in midnight at the lamps

To hurtle this darkness of stiff limbs out

To the stars, break love open on the steel ramps,

Raise flowers in pained cylinders, so that

Complaining engines shall no more be heard

And all, all be human in the first cry of a bird?

(Sources, in order of appearance: Addison, Zagajewski, Hemingway, Bloom, Wilde, Stegner, Frost, Selig)

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