I was honored to be included in a reading at the KGB Bar this January. The reading was recorded, and though the video was posted to YouTube quite some time ago, only late last night did I venture to watch it. I watched with a sense of fascinated narcissism and repelled shame, and I was left with a sense of dissatisfaction with my work. So I can make people laugh, big deal, so what?
An hour or so later, at 1 a.m., I was still awake and pacing in our bedroom, trying to settle the mysteriously unsettled Critter in my arms. For some reason (the YouTube video? the fact that I did not write that evening, as I usually do after the Critter goes to bed and before I begin my evening hours of paid work?) all I could think about was that maybe I should just give up poetry altogether, except as a casual thing. Give it up because ... the dissatisfaction is too unsatisfying, the longing too painful.
On the one hand, I don't give up poetry because I doubt that the painful longing would vanish if I did. Quite the opposite: through high school I freely and happily drew and painted on my own, and in college, when I no longer had time to do so, I forgot how; and now, just setting foot inside an art supply store is almost unbearably painful. Surrounded by tools I no longer know how to use, I feel an ache as though from the ghost of a limb I myself tore off.
On the other hand, I see that some part of me (my shitbird, of course) is holding me back. The last statement in Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo" haunts me (and yes, usually in German): Du musst dein Leben ändern. Though I do keep changing my life and giving things up (eating meat, eating sushi, running marathons, holding a regular job, following baseball any more than casually, sleeping eight hours each night), whatever it is that must change seems to remain unchanged.
I am beginning to realize that what must change is actually quite simple and already included in my rules for being a poet: write every day, and trust the process. Like giving myself over to the breath in zazen ...