I was talking to my friend A. at dinner last night about getting older as an artist & about the way age & reputation interact in the culture of the arts. A. is a sculptor. We started out by agreeing that in the current artistic culture, one has to "make it" at a fairly young age -- before forty -- tha have a chance for wide critical acclaim. As a contrast to the current state of affairs, I was telling her about what the painter Joan Snyder said on the radio a couple of days ago about artists getting too much attention at too young an age. Snyder has just won a MacArthur grant in her sixties, though she began to make her reputation while still fairly young. Apparently, after getting a lot of notice early, Snyder retreated to upstate New York to work in at least a partial isolation, separated from the requirements of the big-money art world. (Of course, I noted, there is no big-money poetry world, so poets don't have exactly the same problem!) Snyder said in her interview that it isn't good for young artists to get too much attention because of the pressure it puts them under; listening to her, though, it occurred to me that the biggest problem would be avoiding locking oneself into a popular or successful style for life. (Again, less a problem for poets -- at least in the sense of making art for a paying audience, since there is no paying audience.) Poets get so little recognition that this isn't quite the same for us, I said, mentioning Josh Corey's comments on the post-mainstream in American poetry -- poetry is so invisible in American culture that the making of virtually any poem is "a counter-cultural act." I find Corey's formulation comforting for personal reasons, but the notion of the poet as someone who, in American culture at least, inevitably works the margins, has undergirded & motivated my writing for going on thirty years. And my teaching, too. Still, at 57, I remain ambitious. And perhaps even envious of those who have made reputations. The artist I care about, though, especially the old ones, when you look at their lives, paid attention to their work first -- or put their ambition & envy into the work to drive it forward. Reading Peter Gay's massive Modernism last night, I was depressed to be reminded that Cezanne was virtually unknown when he died, though the year after his death he became famous. The desperate intensity of the work speaks for itself -- as it does in Van Gogh, another artist who came posthumously to recognition. Anyway, in light of Josh Corey's notion of the post-mainstream, what would even constitute recognition for a poet? The laureateship is the mainstream's form of recognition, but it would has been a kind of death to many poets, it seems to me. Talk about posthumous!