Michael Gottlieb / Letters to a Middle-Aged Poet / 8


What do you do when you suspect, you fear, that you have nothing new – despite everything, absolutely everything you are doing, trying, attempting, as you strive to strike off in a novel direction – nothing new at all to say?

What are you to do when you see others, those inevitably younger, so much younger than you, effortlessly executing, working, exploring, gamboling in areas, in regions that you know – as soon you come across their latest – that you can never, will never, in fact, should never yourself even try to venture to? What do you do now?

Do you stop? Is it now time to accept that your day is done and whatever you had to contribute, you’ve already gone ahead and given at the office? On the other hand, can the example of those others, those young ‘uns, perhaps prompt us, prod us, push us into new areas, into new ways of thinking about our own work, our selves, our joint and several, our shared, and our – alternatively – our severed worlds? New thinking which will oblige us, impel us to do something different?

The snap-brim fedora is not for us, nor those tight selvage dungarees, rolled up at the ankle, nor the brogues without socks, much less the ornate mustachios – but we cannot, we should not carry on as if we were unaware that they have come, or have come again, to have their day, their hour upon the stage. To say this is not to suggest what our younger colleagues are engaged in is mere fashion. It is just to argue that it is so far, that far from us; and we need, we must, in our own interest as well as theirs, I would suggest – necessarily – acknowledge that distance, that difference. We must so stipulate.

Elsewise, if we cannot somehow accept them then there seems to be nothing else to do except stop. And to stop and fix one’s gaze on the past – not in order to understand it or try and reuse it but, instead to do a header into it and live there, because everything else, everything since then, does not… cannot… satisfy, and is simply, irreducibly, irrevocably, a recipe for self-immolation.

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