I totally bailed on a free, online poetry class I signed up for. I just … I’m busy. We all are, so I’ll spare you the details. Breathless accounts of other people’s busy days are almost never interesting, except to the person giving them.
It also just wasn’t the right class for me, in that it was modern and contemporary poetry, with most of its emphasis, by far, on “modern.” Generally, what you think of as “modern” is really “contemporary.” I have only recently learned this, and used to be mystified by exhibits of modern art in which most of the works were from the ‘50s.
Anyway, what I really need is some type of impetus to read contemporary poetry. I love William Carlos Williams, but I feel like I’ve been gazing at that red wheelbarrow long enough. Where I need a lot more depth is with great poets who are still among us or who are only recently deceased.
But here’s the problem … I’m scared to read those living greats. Why? Because I’m not as good as they are, I’ll never get those genius grants or be Norton anthologized or be poet laureate, I don’t even have an MFA, and also, HOLY %^*#, THAT ONE IS YOUNGER THAN ME. (That last one comes up more and more lately – I am now markedly older than most Olympic athletes, too.)
I’ve shaken off my previous heebie jeebies about reading any living poets at all. Now that I have a good number of publishing credits (is there ever really a good number?), I can be genuinely happy when a writing friend gets whatever brass ring they were going for, and I can genuinely enjoy their work, rather than fretting over whether it’s better than mine. But those are the poets whom I would consider to be in my circle and achieving at roughly the same level as I am.
When it comes to those acknowledged living greats, those sine qua nons and ne plus ultras who still walk among us – and thus, rob me of the one slight advantage I have over many other great poets – I still have a terrible, and very petty, block.
So … Leave me a comment. If I can ever get over myself, what great living poet should I read, and why? And can you relate to anything I said here? (I’m not the only one … right?)