Michael Gottlieb / Letters to a Middle-Aged Poet / 18


What about all those who have done better than you?

What about those who have achieved more, gotten more, raised themselves higher, garnered more of whatever it was that you all so certainly scorned when you were young – didn’t you – which even now none of you, none of us, can quite cop to acknowledging means much more than nothing… For, is it not so, no matter how much any of us mayhap have managed to scoop up, there is always someone else, quite close, as it happens quite often, quite nearby as it were, who has more – and how do we come to grips with that? Especially now, after all this time?

Should we, shall we, say, tell ourselves that it has nothing, really, to do with us – our talent or our achievement – rather, instead, it is all about politics? It is all about glad-handing and brown-nosing, even in this, especially this world, especially in this poetry world? And, in fact, it is a testament to our incorruptibility, our base-level integrity, that we never bought into that – at least not completely – so, perforce, our shortfall our lack, relative or not, of renown – however denominated, compared to whomever – in fact should or must be seen as a badge of honor? And, in the final respect history, Poetry itself, will sort if all out? Won’t it?

However, truth be told, might not that too be a delusion? In the same way that the young ‘uns talk themselves into one fallacy or another (don’t they?) of ire, of revenge or irresolute shunning of us and all our works, even if they are too polite or too cowed to bring it up to us directly... decades later, might this just be another lie? Is it not possible that those who have more to show for themselves are in fact enabled to do that, to be that, for good and proper reasons? They’ve earned it, pure and simple.

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