What is it that makes poetic genius, a Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Browning, Ezra Pound? Poetic talent, of course; that comes first. But something more is needed, the capacity to push that talent, roughshod and in hell or high water, over everything, and this capacity is the more important ingredient. Genius is idiosyncrasy; often enough it is aberrance. Other poets, equally talented, who lack this capacity, who are too modest, too humane, too uncertain, or (if we must be psychoanalytical) too inhibited, fall short of genius. They take their verbal styles more from flamboyant or more persuasive poets, they work only gradually toward modes of personal expression, and they devote much of their artistic energy, not only outside their poems but inside them, to the needs of others, instead of pressing forward in the course of a relentless monomaniacal vision. They are, make no mistake, very good poets, yet they fall in the second rank, the journeymen who sustain and always have sustained civilization’s artistic enterprise.You see, I come from a blue collar background, so I don’t mind being a journeyman. Besides, I like the etymology: from “journey” in the sense of “a day’s work,” overlaid with the later meaning of excursion, trip, even pilgrimage. On the other hand, I do have my monomaniacal moments…!
Hayden Carruth, from ‘Homage to A. MacLeish,” in Effluences from the Sacred Caves: More Selected Essays and Reviews: