|Karl Shapiro | newyorktimes.com|
Lower the standard: that’s my motto. Somebody is always putting the food out of reach. We’re tired of falling off ladders. Who says a child can’t paint? A pro is somebody who does it for money. Lower the standards. Let’s all play poetry. Down with ideals, flags, convention buttons, morals, the scrambled eggs on the admiral’s hat. I’m talking sense. Lower the standards. Sabotage the stylistic approach. Let weeds grow in the subdivision. Putty up the incisions in the library façade, those names that frighten grade-school teachers, those names whose U’s are cut like V’s. Burn the Syntopicon and The Harvard Classics. Lower the standard on classics, battleships, Russian ballet, national anthems (but they’re low enough). Break through to the bottom. Be natural as an American abroad who knows no language, not even American. Keelhaul the poets in the vestry chairs. Renovate the Abbey of cold-storage dreamers. Get off the Culture Wagon. Learn how to walk the way you want. Slump your shoulders, stick your belly out, arms all over the table. How many generations will this take? Don’t think about it, just make a start. (You have made a start.) Don’t break anything you can step around, but don’t pick it up. The law of gravity is the law of art. You first, poetry second, the good, the beautiful, the true come last. As the lad said: We must love one another or die.