When I was much younger, I thought writing poetry would give me a place in the world. I was good at it, after all. Maybe as good at it as a middle level pro athlete is good at his sport. I think that's an honest claim. But if there's pro tour for poets in the US, I'm not part of it, even with my books & chapbooks & magazine publications. This is part of the reason I no longer go to the annual AWP meeting -- nearby in NYC this year, it's going on right now. I used to go religiously every year, like the Haj (to shift metaphors from sports to religion), but starting six or seven years ago -- after I came back from a year in Hanoi on a Fulbright -- I just couldn't take the anguish & posing anymore. Mine & others'. I hadn't actually thought of it until just now, but in Vietnam poets are honored & wide-circulation newspapers & magazines carry literary essays & poems. For a while at least, I had more readers in Vietnam than in the US. I was even on television there, reading a poem. In the US, though, if you're a poet, you had better write out of your own deep enjoyment of language, or out of a neurotic need to put things into language, or because you simply love the practice of the art, because nobody is going to pay the least bit of attention to you as a poet. Out of love, then. Even poems of hatred have to originate in love.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

4 thoughts on “Recognition”

  1. lawrence fixel used to joke about distinctions between writers of poetry and drama & prose: one difference being the imaginary carrot & stick vs the real carrot & stick with payoff of mucho moola perhaps coming for the successful playwright or storyteller (though then only if very lucky) while the poet has this fantasy carrot dangling from a fantasy stick often held by and in front of himself, poor donkey, whose illusions marry delusions in a fog of self-valorized agile progressions/ depressions/ devolutions. it often seems a concussive life for those needing a payoff or at least a give&take in a jungian sense.

    there’s another interesting take on this in the book THE GIFT IMAGINATIONS AND THE EROTIC LIFE OF POETRY by lewis hyde and the idea of gift he connects with the n.w.american haida peoples and the potlatch ceremony.

    it’s a good idea to enjoy/enjoin thinking about these phantoms every so often. as if only to come out of a troubled sleep. or reverie. edward mycue


    Poetry’s that kind
    of ultrasound you think of
    when you wish the heart
    wasn’t pregnant

    but then it points to the screen
    showing you its tiny hands
    yes it has hands so many things
    you don’t want to know at first

    like what planet has formed
    its seashell brow and gaze
    rolling its eyes back and forth

    from drowning to drowning
    as if it could be carried
    safely back to shore.


    these, joseph, you get from the fellini films.

    what the wide world requires/
    how you must proceed/
    how guarded you must be: PMP, and ‘don’t push the river’.

    but the poet drinks from the tragic eyes of the clown woman of NIGHTS OF CABIRIA: her eyes are
    the seed of the universe.

    gaston bachelard’s books include THE POETICS OF REVERIE and THE POETICS OF SPACE. poetry isn’t fantasy nor is it commerce. it is more beautiful than a thing because it is experience dreamed into being, BEING dreamed into life. the image of fragrance. an opening blossom and nothing less. soft spreading nipples breasting an afternoon’s dream. let the rain be hard and the snow be wet.
    the breath is tender behind the slanted shutters.

    there is nothing more important for me than poetry and everything is poetry and nothing matters and the value amounts to much more than a vending machine of a life, which is no venue–and the poet no vendor. the whole race is a poet is true. we have been shortchanged. and we will die for want of it if our dreams are only vacuums lacking fire.
    bachelard spoke of psychoanalyzing that fire.

    you feel what i mean, joseph. that is why those conferences are so empty to you. a dry mouth. the negative space between living beings is charged.

    that is where poetry abides pressing the pillows.

    edward mycue

Comments are closed.