New poet laureate

I never know exactly what one is to think of these distinctions. Does it mean that this poet is the best? Representative of American poetry, somehow? What is American? What is poetry? (which brings me back to a half-written entry about Morrison and Beloved that maybe I'll get around to completing, but probably not.)

Anyhow. Guess where this dude was born. Despite that coincidence, this poem is not about me. I'm embarrassed to mention it, but I'm preempting the slim possibility that you, gentle reader, find it and stick it in the comments with a lewd joke.

I do like these words:
I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems. An ambitious project—but sensible, I think.


But I just called high ambition sensible. If our goal in life is to remain content, no ambition is sensible. ... If our goal is to write poetry, the only way we are likely to be any good is to try to be as great as the best


True ambition in a poet seeks fame in the old sense, to make words that live forever. If even to entertain such ambition reveals monstrous egotism, let me argue that the common alternative is petty egotism that spends itself in small competitiveness, that measures its success by quantity of publication, by blurbs on jackets, by small achievement: to be the best poet in the workshop, to be published by Knopf, to win the Pulitzer or the Nobel. . . . The grander goal is to be as good as Dante.

I often wonder how it is that we all get so sidetracked from our seventeen-year-old visions and think it's in our interest. Dammit, no! Want to be the best. It's the only thing worth trying to be.


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