Saturday, September 20, 2008

This is not my job

If this were my job, I would make sure not to make a mistake. As it is, I expect to make mistakes, because I am unconcerned whether I am right or wrong. I do not seek agreement or correctness. I seek satisfaction and completeness. This is my art, not my job. That I call what I produce my work is not to confuse my art with my job. All is work.

As I think about my art, I have very small thoughts. Perhaps this is because my art is small. That's okay as long as my art obtains satisfaction and completeness for myself. I could not judge it otherwise, and I would as unwisely rue shortness of breath as the limited breadth of my art. No, I have small thoughts about my art because the thoughts are small, utilitarian thoughts. What will I write. What have I written. Is this a manuscript. Am I satisfied. Those thoughts - that is, those four thoughts. Usually, just the first of the four: What will I write. Having written, I ask myself Am I satisfied. The other thoughts - What have I written and Is this a manuscript - are posed infrequently, like one-armed mannequins, occurring only when I have written some substantial number of poems and am feeling like a collection or manuscript is coming into focus.

As infrequent as are my thoughts about myself, they are if anything less frequent about others. I except others' work blindly and without regard to any one critical framework except to react strongly if the work appears either wonderful or deplorable. I often see wonderful work and am glad to tell the author what I think, but I have so little else to say that I am sometimes embarrassed I said anything at all. I rarely see deplorable work. Often, the work is sad, and there is nothing I can say to sad work.

I can make up for my lack of thought in saying I am in a more or less constant state of preparedness to write. So the question What will I write is really only an exposition of the ever present consciousness that I will write and am readying myself to write. I have nothing new to say on this point, how a writer goes about his or her day, occasionally testing the mind for words that will set new work into motion.

I think I have explained how this is not my job, and that I do not go about it like a job. Perhaps if I treated writing like a job I would write better poems. I wouldn't care if I did, though. I think I would lose some other present thing if I were to impress jobliness on what I do. If anything, I dream toward less efficiency, less coherence, more presence. To be the work, the poem. To disappear.

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