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Ignorance is Not a Poetic Virtue

Updated on March 7, 2015

Dear Poet

I picked up your poetry book in City Lights.

I sat there and read it. I learned about your struggles and your victories and your loves and your enemies and your vices.

I read about how you were able to see the beauty in things regardless of where you came from or how insignificant you felt in that moment.

I felt your emotions and I cried when you were teetering on the edge of Golden Gate Bridge and you decided that a little hope is better than nothing.

I also felt your pain when you dropped your eggs on the concrete sidewalk and that was the only thing you could afford to eat for that week.

Oh, how you spoke for the common man! Oh how you spoke for the marginal, the disenfranchised! Oh, how you championed their cause!

And you spoke against the bourgeoisie and felt that you represented the voice of the downtrodden and the hungry and the have-nots of our society.

Oh, how I wanted to believe that your words were true and weren't just one empty line after another.

Oh, how I wanted to believe that you weren't just another one of those elitist types who made false promises and who took sadistic pride in manipulating my emotions through colorful metaphors and illusions.

Dear Poet

In my mind, I felt that you were a humble human being because your words flowed so naturally, so sincere and genuine; that those words must be real and true. They were words that touched me and that I could understand deep within my heart.

In my mind, I believed that I would be so thrilled to meet you. You wouldn't be like those phony or snooty artistic types or those who were driven by greed and ego.

In my mind, you would be different. You would welcome me like a long lost friend and have tea with me and talk to me as if you had known me all your life. The encounter would flow as smoothly as your words.

You would be gracious, just knowing that there are fans out there that admire your work and want you to share a little insight into the person behind the words.

In my mind, I would see that the voice that you projected in your poetry was the same voice that you used when you weren't writing poetry--humble, down-to-earth, and real. There would be no pretense or defense or deception.

In my mind, I wanted to believe that to write poetry well you have to be a special breed of person, perhaps more sensitive and with a greater capacity for love and justice.

I felt that you would not disappoint me or let me down or make me wonder if I could ever admire anyone again.

Are Poets Vain and Two-Faced?


Dear Poet

In fact, you did let me down, but there must have been a reason for it.

I could give you the benefit of the doubt.

I could say, maybe you just had a bad day and maybe you were busy in your thoughts or there was something troubling you that you couldn't take your mind off.

I could say that poets are like that; they are basically reclusive and they put so much time and effort into their art that they lack social skills and manners.

I could say that you must be tired of people coming up to you all the time and wanting a friendly conversation, a shake of the hand, an autograph, an explanation of a specific verse.

I could say that people can't be trusted--that once you let one stranger in, you would have to let others in and before you know it you will be overwhelmed by the general public and not have a life of your own.

I could say that you have to make strong boundaries with people.

One doesn't know who to trust, especially when they are strangers.

Or perhaps your mother told you never to talk to strangers and you were only being loyal to her.

Or as a friend told me, "there could be a million other legitimate excuses for her rude behavior toward you" [sic].

Dear Poet

I could also say that you are full of crap.

You have a little talent and you think you are the brightest star in the universe.

You think you are god's gift to the human race and that you don't have time for the common people--and besides, they are dirty, filthy uncouth creatures that need to be hidden from your sight.

I could also say that poetry is overrated and that it is a dying art.

Poetry hasn't been special since the likes of Alan Ginsberg and the beat poets.

Nobody reads poetry anymore.

They have smart TVs and they can watch the House of Cards and all the other shows on Netflix and Amazon and have a rich and fulfilling life without your iambic pentameter.

The world is not a better place because of poetry. In fact, only a small percentage of the population of humans read poetry on a regular basis and they are pompous and boring as Hell.

But I won't say these things because that's not who I am.

I'm better than that.

Dead Poets Society Clip

Dear Poet

Thank you for not giving me the time of day.

You have opened my eyes to ignorance.

You have made me see things more clearly.

I know now that I was just a fool to think that you would talk to me and welcome me as a fellow artist.

I know now that people are people no matter how gifted and talented that they are.

It doesn't matter how successful or rich you are, a human is a human is a human.

I know now not to put celebrities and artists on a pedestal or foolishly want to develop any kind of relationship with them.

They are mostly arrogant, priggish, and jaded.

The only difference is that they have a book published or film out or a play being staged or an exhibit being put on.

I remember what John Keating (Robin Williams) said in Dead Poets Society: "Poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." And that "No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world."

But I say:

It's all poppycock!

Kind and loving people change the world.


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    • VoiceOfCreation profile image

      TheVoiceOfCreation 2 months ago from I'm Between Realities At The Moment

      Alas, I think grace is something learned, and not everyone passes that test. Such is the hard truth about everything in life. It's a series of tests, most of which we are unprepared for, and have to make split-second decisions about.

    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 2 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks VOC, I guess our idols are human like everyone else. Wish they could be more gracious.

    • VoiceOfCreation profile image

      TheVoiceOfCreation 2 months ago from I'm Between Realities At The Moment

      This speaks volumes. It makes me sad. As a poet, I wish I could say you were wrong, but many artists don't do it for the love, anymore. They do it hoping to make a quick buck. I wish your idols had been more kind, more like the words they wrote which made you relate to them on such infinite levels.