poet: n; 3. the poet's desire is that in this life of countless departures there is one approach. 4. some have found the hidden sea; of these, many return to their lives content with what they have seen, with what they have discovered. of those few that press further, most stand at the edge of the sea and look out across it. a small number actually wade into the water. even a smaller number hold their breath and plunge beneath the water, some of which return to the surface with something from the underwater world. this accounts for just about everyone. the handful that are left are those who are completely at home underwater. they are able to live there, breathing freely where others would drown. unfortunately, these true poets, when they return to the terrestrial world find that they must hold their breath. they can only live where the others live with great difficulty and only for short periods of time. 5. words in the end will never succeed. they will always be turned away at the gate. a poet then must be cruel. a poet must force the words to continue on, must force them to reach their inevitable failures. 6. if you are looking for the poet in the poem, you are missing the point. anyway, the poet is not in the poem at all. if for some obsessive reason you must find the poet, you must go to the poem's edge (to that place where the poem falls away). when you have attained this edge you must look outwards (making sure to keep your feet grounded in the poem). doing this you will be confronted with a void which will take your voice and your vision and anything else you have to give. it gives you nothing except the poem you are standing on. at this point you will have found, attained, the poet. in attaining the poet you will also have attained yourself. in attaining all of this however, you will have in reality attained nothing. 7. the poet depends on the presence of the poem; the poem depends upon an encounter with poetry. 8. a traditional role of the poet has been a receptacle and voice of a people's history. one can expect no respect for poets from a people who do not know their own history, from a people who are under the control of those who wish at all costs that the true history be forever hidden or obscured. 9. a sense opposed to a consensus, a mission opposed to a commission, a promise opposed to a compromise, a struggle for redemption as opposed to consumption. 10. i have heard many times the belief that poets lose their ability for poetry at around the age of forty. such expressions are always accompanied by some inherent physical failing which is responsible for the evaporation of the poetic urge. such a belief implies that poetry is not possible after forty, or after a certain age. such an explanation seems to me to reveal a lazy and shallow understanding of life and its poetic possibilities. if in fact the poetic urge does dry up at a certain age it is not necessary to ascribe it to some physical shortcomings. instead, it represents the end of the struggle of the poet with the world where the world finally wins. after years of learning the craft, of dealing with the unpredictability of inspiration, of creating a space and respect for poetry in a life, after years of creating and then driving yourself to create something new, something that transcends what you have already done, and then, on top of all of this, to year after year remain confident in what you are doing when all those around you ignore your work, or to remain confident in your talent to transcend what you are doing when all those around you praise you and urge you to produce more of the same, to year after year retain a belief that what you are producing has a value... when after years of all this (as well as just simple existing day to day) a poet sees its work as being something which society and all those near to her/him appear driven to live without, then maybe the poetic urge is crushed. and its being destroyed in this way reveals not a failing of the poet but a rare strength which has for so many years resisted the overwhelming failures of the vast number of those who are intent on living without poetry. 11. i want to reach those places where the word loses its composure. 12. in Arabic poet is literally to feel as though we are all blind and so the poet feels a/our way through the/our darkness. 13. the poet, in instances of mastering language, aims to lead the reader to the place where they will experience something that also occurs in the ignorance of language, that is, ambiguity and misunderstanding. 14. the narrative poet: at best narrative transcends itself (and so the question is, why narrative and why not begin with this other transcendental mode and then seek to transcend it); at worst it is a cowardly attempt to reach poetry (as though one claims a passion for mountain climbing while only allowing themselves to climb stairs). 15. love will open a poet's mouth; dread will keep it open. 16. the poet is a thief; it steals your discretion, your common sense. and this is a good thing. you should be grateful. 17. the poet is an uncomfortable and suspect citizen of truth. 18. often the poet is walking barefoot across a desert of shoes. 19. the poet's aim is to make direct interventions into the social and individual constructions of reality. a poet believes in the power of language, in the power of words, not because of any idealism or pseudo-religious tendencies but because in becoming a poet the poet has personally experienced such power (and has become living proof of the efficacy of such an intervention). 20. Valéry says people do not need a poet to tell them to carry an umbrella. this is true. what they do need is for a poet to rain on them. 21. their disease is their health- Miroslav Holub. 22. to be a poet is to make a vow, a pact with something that can only be described as nothing. the effect of this is to welcome an existence which is free of ease, of repose. and so, everyone must ask, why consent to this arrangement? the answer to that is the poet's secret. and the poet's secret is not something to be shared. 23. life is just something poets do. 24. a poet is part of a jury that has been sequestered and everyone else on the jury went to the washroom, together, and have never returned. 25. i labour in an archive collecting, arranging, maintaining, even sometimes repairing a birthright, a wealth that no one can figure out how to claim. 26. the poet who practices negative poetics refuses to cede to the public the illusion of positivity, presence. an effort such as this should be understood as a positive act. 27. poets must be neologismatists. 28. when the poet succeeds we are reminded that metaphors are not to be confused with objective realities. 29. the only thing more tragic (or perhaps, more absurd) than a poet is someone who used to be a poet. 30. the poet continuously finds its voice working its way through the cracks of another's inattention. 31. a poet's conscience cannot be measured without reference to his technical choices -G. Agamben. 32. when people say poetry is irrelevant (and they often proclaim it using metaphors! such as poetry is dead) i can think of no better reason to be a poet. as a corollary, the degree to which someone refuses to admit the presence of poetry in their life is proportional to the misery of their life. 33. it was said that poets are the antennae of society. they are also the scalpels, the bone-saws, the rib-spreaders, the de-fibrillators... 34. From now on all my writings are fish-hooks: perhaps I understand fishing as well as anyone?... If nothing got caught I am not to blame... There were no fish... - Nietzsche. 35. just because two people are using the same tools does not mean that they are following the same occupation. 36. the poet, who is engaged in complex metaphorical operations, has a responsibility for handling, for presenting such things and must willingly accept the realities of those for whom a particular metaphor may have been lived, or rather endured, as fact. 37. it is predictable that those who don't have, as Goethe says, the highest human power should marginalize and ignore those who are unwilling to relinquish it. 38. the poet does not describe love, the poet feeds it and provides it with a bed where it can rest, dream. 39. nothing is more confident than a bad poet -Martial. 40. the poet's tasks are innovation and disruption. any poet who is concerned with or achieves anything other than innovation and disruption is literally killing time. 41. the poet is an embodiment of the phenomenon of beginning. 42. a poet must never cease leaving home, wherever or whatever home might be. 43. every poet is a possible civilization. 44. the poet cultivates immensity. 45. the poet must always step beyond cant. 45. the poet maintains a tragic relationship with language. this is of course the only relationship which is possible with language. and language remains faithful to a poet. moreover, no one can understand the specific nature of such a relationship a situation which has the unexpected effect of isolating, even silencing the poet. 46. when the true poet speaks, each word has been thought, has been lived, to death. 47. what abides is founded by poets Hölderlin. 48. a poet reveals the contingent particular disguised as a universal and teaches others how to do this for themselves. 49. poets are an anagram of the acronym of political suspension of the ethical. 50. how can one not be a poet, an artist, in this intolerable monotony of perplexities ? (Cioran).
from Devils Wine
(the selections poem, poet, & poetry from A Personal Dictionary
and drafts of poems from Peindicy)
© Mike Schertzer, 2003