Poets: Keeping the “human” in humanities

One thing I really like about being in the world of poetry is this: Even though a lot of poets are very well-known and have celebrity-like status in the literary realm, most of the time they remain very approachable on a personal level. Take, for instance, C.K. Williams. Now here’s a guy who has won major awards, published well-received books, seen his name in major magazines, and taught in prestigious locations all over the world. And yet, when encounters a fan of his work (like yours truly), he’s not so stuffy and pretentious that he won’t add you on Facebook. Little things like that are huge, especially to up-and-comers like me — the fact that “big name poets” (see previous entries) would associate themselves with rank newbies is a testament to their humanity and humility.

Certainly, there exist those writers who perceive themselves as so high and mighty that they would not dare set foot off of their cloud of condescencion, but from my experience, those individuals are few and far between, and most poets have a pretty fair assessment of their own status: Their limited fame that comes from the academic and erudite set is a nice commodity, but it’s not like the National Enquirer is going to send paparazzi after a poet laureate anytime soon.

I suppose the lesson in all this is one in the basic tenets of courtesy: Even when you have achieved Pulitzers and Pushcarts, even when the Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker simultaneously publish your work, and even when your book sells its first million copies, you, poet, still have the obligation to remain personable. The example set by our predecessors is a positive one, and we have the obligation to uphold it.

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