Before my cohort and my other fellow MFA candidates left from our last residency in June, we were given a final warning by the inimitable Arthur Flowers (see photo, left): “So, what are you going to do? You’re about to go back out into real life, where there’s bills to pay and mouths to feed. … People are going to tell you that you’re chasing a fantasy. People are going to say to you, ‘Just do like the rest of us.’ Don’t you do it. Follow that dream you’ve begun here. Never let anybody tell you that you’re not a writer.”
The truth is, I’ve had to replay this little lecture to myself on more than one occasion. As my teaching gigs and the mundane suburban duties of yardwork and such pile up, I sometimes tend to forget that I am also a poet. After all, the labels of father, husband, and professor seem to hold so many more responsibilities. What’s more, the immediacy of providing for my family tends to obscure the more long-term goal of poetic success.
It is indeed a dog-eat-dog world out there, and poets, like everyone else, are scrambling in a fight to the top: networking, assuming new titles, taking on the challenges of work-home balance, and ensuring that all the parts of life are functioning smoothly. In the midst of all this, it becomes pretty easy to allow writing and those related goals to take a back seat. I even found myself telling my wife recently, “Writing’s not as important as (insert bigger priority here).” And while that may be true, I must remind myself not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Just because life demands greater attention to things of necessity doesn’t mean that I should completely cast aside any and all writing endeavors. And neither should you, reader.
“We do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do,” the old saying goes. But occasionally there’s a blurry line between those two ideas. Where the needs meet the wants, in that blurry gray space, is poetry. Yes, I could live without writing. But it would definitely be a sad and colorless existence, devoid of any creative sparks or intrinsic cognitive satisfaction. It is unimaginable and unimaginative. I have no plans to cut out my essence, just as I have no plans to desert my family or my career. Join me, readers, in this persistent striving toward the bigger, toward the better, toward tomorrow. Let us be pilgrims on this journey together. May our walk be filled with abundance, and may our pens never run dry.