We poets have to learn to feel more deeply than we think. A tall order for those who make of intellect a game that serves their art well. Especially that handful of poets for whom poetry is nothing so much as a key to unlock not just their lives but their deaths. There are those who, while using words as a ladder both to climb into and out of life, or an ax to hack out for themselves a life or hack their way out of life, know the poverty and ultimate humility of words. Not so much that words fail man’s final test to prove himself or express what makes him man, but that their success gives him a voice—and in poetry’s case, a voice hopefully worth hearing.
A voice colored, nuanced, with the pitfalls and hallelujahs, the abysses and plenums that come from a life for which, as Horace said, nothing that is human—but surpassing Horace, also nothing that is nonhuman—is foreign to it. A life whose borders and boundaries, not to say fears and loves, are all dissolved in the spirit and sensation of poetry. Not so much initially in words as in interoception and exteroception, which allow for a multitude of expressions, a seeming eternity of images. And a concentration of thought which is hot, pointed as a spot burned into a piece of paper under a magnifying glass held in the sun—but also, if not more, an expansion of the mind to encompass the infinite possibility of thought and language.
Finally, what makes a poet is, of course, what makes a man. And nothing that makes a man ought to be foreign to poetry. That’s not so much a tall as a long list, an almost inexhaustible catalogue of perceptions, sensations and interpretations of experience from the fantastic, the wildly imaginative, to the mundane which yet exudes the aroma of the poetic.
For some of us this list is what it means to exist. We record that meaning according to our own orientations and our solitude which we universalize and make public. A brave act perhaps; you might even say the act of a warrior. Similar at times to that of sage or seer, or just a drinker at all fountains, swimmer in all rivers, including those that flow deep within the caverns of our consciousness. Rivers whose waters get everything we touch or think wet, and which we dry with a towel of words.