Recently, a relative of mine asked me to send her the names of some local poets that she could contact for a writer’s panel she’s putting together. I happily e-mailed her a list of names, and caught myself in the e-mail describing them as “reputable”. Then I laughed a bit at the concept of a reputable poet. Romantic myth tells us that “real” poets are anything but reputable. Poets are supposed to be dissolute and erratic in dress and behavior, to lead lewd, scandalous lives full of affairs and multiple marriages, to collapse with drink on any given Tuesday, and to die broken, leaving behind a trail of destruction and heartbreak. But when I actually reflected on my list of poets, I realized that they are all really sensible people. Boring, actually. They have day jobs and children and responsibilities and bills to pay. They have to organize themselves properly and manage their workaday lives just like everyone else. In fact, I believe that their ability to do so is what allows them the energy to be wild, gutsy and ferocious in their writing. My favorite poet, the brilliant Wallace Stevens, worked until retirement as an executive for an insurance company and composed poems as he walked to work every day in a suit and tie. One of the preeminent poets on my list works for a law firm and is one of the most sensible and practical people I know. Another is a technical writer for a well-known IT company. These are not people given to erraticism or histrionics. It takes too much energy to lead a life full of melodrama, and manage to create passionate works of poetic genius. Could it be that the best poets are actually the most staid and boring people among us? I suspect so.
I tuned in and out of the Oscars last Sunday, not having seen any of the movies and not caring about anything but the fashion, but I did somehow manage to catch a clip from that insufferable musical “La-La Land.” Yes, I am assuming it’s insufferable. I didn’t see it, but its mere existence annoys me. And the clip I saw made me want to claw my eyes out. It was what’s-his-name—Ryan Gosseling, I think?—explaining improvisational jazz to his dinner date. He describes in great detail all of the…detail involved in jazz performance, and it gave me an instant headache. Jazz is musical chloroform for me. After about two minutes of it, my head is on the table and I’m passed out snoring. So I actually don’t know if I like it or don’t like it, because I can’t listen to it long enough to discern. I would like to believe that the complexity of it overwhelms my circuits and that’s why I shut down when listening to it, but that would be flattering myself. I don’t think I can even process the complexity of it. It’s probably time to admit that I’m just shallow. As previously stated, I don’t like Yoga, I don’t like jazz, and while we’re at it, I might as well confess that I’m lax about recycling and I eat refined carbohydrates with shocking regularity. I’ll turn in my official Seattleite card and move away now.
Not to end on a low note, but the world lost a truly good man this week. My grandfather, one of the Greatest Generation, passed away on Monday. He was one the most steadfast, strong and hardy people I have ever known. I went to say goodbye to him last Saturday in the hospice. I had forgotten how intimate it is to watch someone dying. I’m glad I was there, and that I was able to thank him for being my Grandfather. I like to believe that he heard me and understood me. You can read more about him and his remarkable life here: