Thursday, June 03, 2004

Well, it looks like things are moving toward a peaceful resolution here. Lesson one has to be relearned again and again: tone is impossible to control in an e-mail. I read things that weren't there and other people heard things not said by me. The larger issue that I am wrestling, wrestling, wrestling with is power. Like many of us, my self-image has not caught up to my adult reality: it's all too easy for me to return mentally to the 4th grade lunchroom. I have not always taken responsibility for the influence I may have or even the threat I might be perceived as simply because it doesn't usually occur to me that I have any real power. But I do, of course—anyone with a public voice does—and that means taking responsibility, treading lightly where I need to and knowing I can be effective on my own behalf or on the behalf of others. It also means recognizing that I will inevitably be attacked for simply having a modicum of power, whether I exercise it consciously or not. This is hard for me to come to terms with. In spite of cultural-studies instincts that tell me "everything is political," I am not by nature a very political person. I have no taste for intrigue or conspiracy, even in a good cause. (Fourier would say I rank low in the "cabalist" passion.) While I realize in the abstract that people might talk unkindly about me behind my back, it doesn't occur to me to be on guard about such a thing. In fact the en garde position is entirely foreign to this would-be avant-gardeist (or avant-garde sympathizer). Malice shocks and dismays me every time because I refuse to concede that my ambition (to be a better poet, to be a well-published poet, to influence the world for the better, and not least to get and keep a good job) means that I am taking the food out of someone else's mouth. Why should poetry, of all ridiculous things, be tied to an economy of scarcity? I want to believe that there's turf enough for all who want it—better, that we can each build the structures we need on the "land" we already possess. Naive? Probably. But without such naivety, how to preserve the open-heartedness which makes my life worth living and my poetry worthh writing? That might be lesson two, a far more difficult trick.

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