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  • Hi, Jeannine. In response to your thoughtful, provocative post, here are my thoughts about success in poetry. 1) Success, above all, means keeping one’s aesthetic integrity–not writing to win an award, improve pecking order “important poet” status, obtain prestigious professorial positions, attract 300 worshipers nightly to hear one read in hushed auditoriums, to have a bunch of poems included in academically revered anthologies, or to have one’s AWP or MLA appearances be better attended than everyone else’s. It means simply: trying to write as well as one can no matter what anyone with power or money or prestige thinks about it. That’s the heart and core and essence of it: going where the muse takes you, even if you by doing so you know you won’t win the award, laureateship, professorship, grant, or big adoring audience. And above all, this entails a hugely important corollary: being willing to admit one’s flaws and limitations as a writer, no matter how old and experienced one is–and then to improve and improve and improve, even if no one recognizes that. Now, of course, yes, it’s great to be recognized and sell books, and no one need be ashamed of having an ego or ambition. And, yes, building viable, enduring literary community is important. But more important than all of this is keeping and honoring one’s aesthetic integrity. Write what needs to be written–not for awards and money but for the culture, the future, one’s own health and soul. Now, I’ll get off of my soap box. Thanks again for the provocative post, and all best wishes!

    October 04, 2021

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