I’m watching a documentary on Hunter S. Thompson tonight: “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride.” Hunter S. Thompson lived a poetic life, and wrote poetically, even though he wasn’t known for writing poetry. Just watching the movie makes me want to stop writing, because I know that I will never measure up to his classic work, but I still do. I write because I have to, even as I know that there are others out there who are better, those writers I read, and shrink into myself as I read them, because they are Mozart and I am Salieri. Yet, I still write – because I have to, because this is the only thing in life that I do that really means anything to me, and that doesn’t let me down.
I started writing poetry when I was 14; my brother, who was a painter (he was a writer as well, having the first and only poem he ever submitted anywhere be published, but painting was his first passion), wrote me a note once comparing a poem I had written to Lawrence Ferlinghetti; I still have that note. My poets were (still are) Ferlinghetti, Richard Brautigan, e.e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, and Alan Ginsberg; then later, in college, Wordsworth, Keats, and Yeats. I remember reading “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” by Wordsworth for a class, and as I read the poem several times, it began to reveal itself to me, like a secret message, and I felt like I was one of the chosen who were lucky enough to receive that message. To discover that treasure, and to realize that this was how poetry should always be read, has informed my life from then up to this moment.
Poetry is an adventure; each time you read a poem, it can take you in a different direction. Reading poetry can surprise you; let it do what it will. I have no idea if the poetry I’m writing is “good,” but I know this – it’s good to me, and it’s good for me, and that is enough. Art? As my brother used to say, “Art who?”