Do You Want To?

May 22, 2009 § 4 Comments







For the Young Who Want To

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Copyright 1982 Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy
Alfred A. Knopf

One of things this poem brought to mind (besides an appreciation for the wonderful support from the sender) is how I use my life for my poems. A  friend told me recently that she reads my work to see what’s happening in my life. Another reminded me that if you are a writer, your family and friends have no privacy.  I’ve found that is true for mine, although I refrain from using names to protect the guilty. :-)

So am I choosing work over being loved? So far, everyone has forgiven  and supported me. I’m grateful and lucky.

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§ 4 Responses to Do You Want To?

  • I struggle with the same thing, and like you, enjoy the continued blessings of my loved ones. The poem is beautiful and the sentiments so true…thanks for sharing.

  • Julie says:

    “So far, everyone has forgiven and supported me.”

    As they should. Great poem. If only people knew how difficult it is to be a writer. For some reason many think it just comes naturally. Oh, how I wish.

    • Thanks for commenting, Julie. I thought it was easy too until I started.

      You know, I’m able to write short stories not about my life, but not many poems. So it’s not hard for me now, but…my poor family. I hope I get there soon.

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