Painters can say how they work in pastels or oils, but I’m unable to address how a poem happens. One may just as soon ask why the goldfinch just landed on the echinacea; or why the Mongols halted at Vienna; or why the blackbird, and not the crow, got to Stevens first.
Let me be the first to announce that I am what Tolkien dubbed* “a muddler in verse.” Or, as a critic once called me, a “taster of poetry.” That’s actually pretty funny. It is all true: my scholarship is wanting; my vocabulary limited; the promise others perceived in me I have largely disappointed. Still, while I do not claim any grants or fellowships, the kindness of many teachers and peers enriches me to this day.
I chose to stand by my shortcomings and limitations. Maybe others, slow and struggling like myself, will find a glitch of solidarity in our digital isolation. Maybe authentic Genius, when God sees fit to finally return it to us, will have someone against whom to measure itself. This is all, really, that my poems are “about.”
* J.R.R. Tolkien, The Monsters & the Critics (HarperCollins, 2007)