Some closing remarks by Judson Jerome in The Poet's Handbook (see ^zhurnal IambicHonesty1 (23 April 2001) and IambicHonesty2 (27 April 2001) for parts I & II):

On long-term issues:

This is cocktail-party culture. The resulting poetry does not reach and has no concern with ordinary readers. In this book I have tried to ignore all that, and I hope you have the strength to ignore it as a poet. Rather, I am concerned with durable goods, with the qualities that characterize the excellent poetry of the ancient Greeks as much as that of today. It wasn't until modern times that the word modern was used as a term of approval or praise. Its sense was closer to modish, implying merely fashionable, temporary, of no lasting interest or value, as when the 'Justice' is described in Shakespeare's As You Like It as being 'Full of wise saws and modern instances.' As a poet or a person, you can't help being modern. That is an accident of birth. The question is, can you be anything else? I hope this book helps you, as it has helped me, at least to aim at goals of more enduring value. (Chap. 14, "Into the Maelstrom")

On fame:

Next to zucchini squash, poetry must be the most overproduced commodity in the world. ... There simply is no market to speak of. ... The currency of a poetic career is not cash but reputation --- and that, too, is a mixed bag in regard to its merits. At any given time in the United States there are about two hundred 'known' poets. (How many can you name?) These mostly know or know of one another. They show up on the committees to grant awards and prizes, give readings at colleges and elsewhere, appear regularly in the respectable literary journals .... Often they not only give but get the grants. ... Getting into that circle of two hundred requires a lot more politics and pull and personality than it does poetic talent. Given the whimsicality of taste in our culture, there is no way of saying which poets are actually 'best,' or even which are likely to be read twenty years from now. (A list from twenty years ago would be almost totally obscure to us today.) I am not sure I would recommend to any poet that he or she play the game of trying to become one of the 'known' poets under these circumstances. I played it for some twenty years, with some success, but I found it corrupting, and decided I had better things to do with my remaining years. (Chap. 15, "In and Out of the Closet")

On why to write poetry:

Like virtue, poetry is its own reward. ... The immortality game, like that of getting into the circle of the two hundred, can be wicked and delusionary. ... That leaves you with perhaps the most important reward of all: personal satisfaction. ... You are more likely to succeed at poetry, as in love, if you get success out of your head. Concentrate on quality. Learn the joy of creating excellence --- whether or not anyone else recognizes it. (Chap. 15, "In and Out of the Closet")

Sunday, May 06, 2001 at 05:43:58 (EDT) = 2001-05-06


(correlates: TwoDreams, IambicHonesty2, NationalWealth, ...)