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.