One doesn’t have to look to the Paris Review or Poetry Magazine or The New York Review of Books for profound insight. Here’s a bit of wisdom from an interview with Sam Hamill—”poet, publisher, editor and translator, [who] co-founded the Copper Canyon Press in 1972″—published online at The Kearney Hub in Kearney, Nebraska. Hamill remarks: “The way of poetry […] shows us that our lives are simply an instrument of our practice. If we alter our practice, we change our lives. By changing our own lives, we may affect the lives of those around us in helpful ways.”
Is this not what poetry—and all art, for that matter—is about? Creating artifacts that bear witness to the practice Keats called “soul-making”? Artifacts that might inspire such a practice in others? I can’t think of any other serious reason to write.
This is why the very notion of “uncreative writing” is such a profound insult to our intelligence. It’s not just a trivializing waste of time: it abets the creeping, or galloping, soullessness of life in the shadow of late-late capitalism—the system that wants us to be uninspired and incapable of distinguishing genuine from faux. How much easier we are to control when we have no practice (in Hamill’s sense)—when thoughts are displaced by attitudes, experience by theory, psychic need by manufactured desire, the awakened use of language by mind- and heart-numbing rhetoric.
Poetry once aspired to be a stay against cognitive, emotional and spiritual degradation, and it sometimes still does. Shouldn’t we spend our energy on poetry that furthers our most necessary practice, and ignore the rest?
* The title of this post refers to the song lyric by Paul Simon.