Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Poets - Life & Death and their work

"When you’re a young writer, you subtract the birth dates of authors from their publication dates and feel panic or hope. When you’re an old writer, you observe the death dates of your favorite writers and you reflect on their works and their lives. " ~ Gail Godwin

If there is any obsession that has a hold on me, it would be the triangulation of time - death  - life.  That obsession has informed a lot of things in my life. I probably is what propelled me into political involvement at an age when many were dealing with such things as acne and their popularity.  I blame it too for informing my approach to writing in ways I often find frustrating.

Gail Godwin's essay "Working on the Ending - I'm not finished" - New York Times - Sunday Book Review, really spoke to me as she talked about writing and aging. Of course I'm not as old as the writers she references in her essay, but I'm no spring chicken either.  And since I am so good a looking at the ages of writers (especially poets) as they pass on, doing the math (a fact that I'm sure only feeds my anxiety) in my head, well it only stands to reason this all too close for comfort.

Since I've come to writing poetry late in life, I already identify with Phillip Roth's remarks to Terry Gross of NPR when asked what he wanted out of writing as he aged.  Roth replied that  he wanted to be as alert and energetic as ever at the keyboard, he wanted to be taken seriously, and he wanted to make a work of art out of his subject.  The part about being taken seriously, I think one of the hard parts for me is that after writing for a shorter period of time then many my age, it seems the entire rest of my writing life will be held hostage by this desire.

I'm sure that I would do well to loosen up a bit and try not to focus on such things as who was just published and how many books is that makes now or what poet just died and how old they were.
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