Spontaneity. Creativity. Bold love. Traits universally-shared among poets across time. Poets are curious about variability: Shifting words, sentences, ideas, shapes of life, contours, relationships, devotions. So we get quirky and push the limits on occasion. We value freedom of our souls above all else. We most likely start out with these traits. They are what lead us to poetry. Then throughout our lives, they are continually reinforced through the act of writing. 

A poet cannot tame or censor the muse. Acting on impulse is not only apropos to the writing process, it is quintessential. This is what we learn. When we let go of all inhibitions, we receive satisfaction from the calling: a completed poem. A gift. A piece of Objective Immortality, as Alfred North Whitehead might say.

In contrast, it is often annoying, awkward, and inappropriate to exhibit this mode of self-personality in average life interaction. In “real life” people should stem their impulsiveness and think with extensive earnestness prior to expressing themselves with true joviality and inventiveness (it is generally agreed thus).

While we certainly admire prudent restraint as the hallmark of all truly sane and stable, Godly and upright citizens (to which a secret part of us is always aspiring), it is difficult for poets to reach this pinnacle of social propriety (mostly because another not-so-secret part of us dislikes it). Propriety is incongruous with poets. The very nature of our craft is dependent upon reckless expression. It relies on us (for its very existence!) to eschew the social filter and live fiercely, write fiercely. Of course, we choose to exercise some measure of predictability and routine, recognizing the fruits of wise, thought-out judgments and pre-planning. Many normal strivings are legitimate fruits to be embraced; we do not argue about this.

The desire to do art comes on with urgency. It is less of an invitation and more of a demand. Art is not fond of being put-off. Alas, such is the structure of life—it requires a healthy measure of responsibility. Hence, art is frequently put-off. It’s truly a wonder that the world has so much good art considering the messy stumbling blocks it puts in our way.

The poet is in the awkward-bliss-state of striving for sanity and a steady life while also being pulled by the effusive, virulent spirit of poetry. We must work with and report to the norms of the world; such commitments are part of what makes life successful and fulfilling. At the same time, we must respect the gift and the blessing of writing. We must be faithful to the responsibility we have to share what flows through us. Poetry is our voice, our way of facing the world. We cannot relinquish this mandate, which is also our joy.

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