Tuesday, May 30, 2006
it does not make me uncomfortable when you compare me to the poets i admire. on the one hand, it puts this tick in my brain… of course i’m not as good, not as this not as that… on the other hand it makes me feel… appreciated, understood, happy and proud.
i am interested in this idea of empathy as a key ingredient to poetry. do you think it can go both ways? you made all the point there is for the poet to write a good poem. are there good poetry audiences, though? do i like poetry more than someone else because i am more empathetic than that someone? or is all the weight on the shoulders of the poet? walt Whitman says: "To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too". is this true? i think it must be. i think we understand the poems by and/or about the people we know better than the ones we don’t.
poems are also more fun and much more exciting when they are relevant to the individual reading them. i sent you a mary howe poem. it was a message from me to you. you did the same with rohrer. that conversation through page numbers was brilliant because it forced the poems to transcend. those poems do nothing like as much work without people like you and i who play with them, who expand and contract them. that frank o’hara poem is so much more now than it ever has been because we own it for each other now.
isn’t is curious how reducing a poem to an ownership makes it greater?
i’m sure there are mountains more to be said about this topic. i’ll be honest with you though, i’m whipped out after all this. you must be too. take your time with this… i don’t even expect we’ll have finished with it all by friday. let’s take it all one chapter at a time :)
a: And it seems to me that there are two issues here: one of empathy, and one of audience. As for empathy, I do think it is important, in one way or another, however it is reached. (So preferably not in the crass Hollywood/Hallmark way). But audience... that's a good question. I remember when I wanted to do film and I was frustrated and I went to one of my heroes at the time, my philosophy/existentialism professor, and she told me, You know, it is just as important to appreciate a good movie as it is to make one. I wasn't too convinced then; and I am not sure that I am now. Though I agree that it is pointless to have a good movie without a good audience. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating a mass media approach of number crunching and satisfying the masses--I am still ultimately an elitist who believes most people are stupid and boring and not everyone is the same. I do believe in equal rights and obligations, but that is not to say that everyone is equal. And I think smart people are a minority, unfortunately. But what I don't believe is that people were better back then... That whole nostalgic argument that people were more interested and educated and refined and stuff. People have always been the scum that they are, for the most part. Under the belly of the "refined" always lay the suffering of the underclasses, etc. So, let's not get me started on that. But I do believe there is a better audience in New York, and that is why it has better art (or the other way round), etc.
So, time to go home... I never thought I'd do it! But here it is... And thank you for all your effort on Poetship; I will try not to feel bad about it (that I'm doing nothing). I do very much appreciate it.
Friday, May 05, 2006
at the undergrad conference i attended last year, i was on a panal with a young man who’s name i cannot remember for the life of me, who presented his idea of poetry as a mean of therapy. i love this. i did then and i still do now. high-school students write poetry to help themselves coop with the ever-expanding universe that is their life and to help themselves understand and interpret everything that goes on around them and inside them during that phase of their life. i did this. i know others have to. lauren wrote poems to deal with her family’s long and damning struggle with alcoholism. the guy who’s name i can’t remember, had a learning disability which prevented him from having what he thought would have been a normal childhood; thus, he created that childhood in poetry, immortalized the one he did have, made it beautiful, and wrote verse about all the things that brought him pain and struggle. he cleansed himself with his poetry.
i get the sense that ashraf the poet does this to an extent. poetry helps to alleviate something. “the lower take” is a therapeutic poem from my perspective. i was frustrated and upset so i took out a pencil and scribbled out this poem. it made me feel so much better having gotten everything i wanted to say out. i disguised it as a poem and no one has to know how much or how little is truth. poetry makes great therapy because it is camouflaged by language and art. a poet, or anyone who writes a poem, can expose themselves out-right without being too forthcoming, too overbearing. and then, in defense of oneself, the poet can dismiss any embarrassment with the argument of poetry as art, interpretive, metaphorical, purely imaginary and so on. one does not need to admit to anything in a poem. i don’t admit to very much in any of my poems. poets have so many secrets—this makes us powerful.
for me, in addition to getting any heat off my chest, poetry is also a means of relaxation and meditation. often times at work i will think poetry in my head to release me from the monotony of my current job. i think poetry when i drive, to occupy me. heh, i must sound like i’m always thinking J it’s more that i let my mind open up to what’s going on, to be inspired. the thing about hawks… my first reaction was, how does this picture fit into words? how can i do this… and the poem, the words, started to develop. it almost appeared to me like one of those 8-piece puzzles with one empty square so you can move the others around to make the picture, those sliding puzzles. i had to move the words around to make the poem in my mind, the words… hawk, rain, wing, drying, after, barn, tree… they were all there, they just needed arranging, and a few prepositions and articles.
if i’m anxious, like i was at work the other day, i can take a deep breath and set my mind and my fingers to work on something. this works for boredom too, though i haven’t felt bored in a long time thanks to you and brian and billy and all these piles of books around me. if anything, i’ve felt like there hasn’t been enough time lately.
overall, this is a simple concept. it’s just one that we haven’t talked about yet, and i think it’s important, valid, and might also work with dana’s article. poetry in the masses, the poetry of house wives, is all about therapy.
a: I so agree with you on the role of that one, perhaps even more literally than you realize. In fact, a poem ("Lazy") as a therapy assignment. When I was in therapy (about 2 years ago?) my therapist was trying to get me to do these Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) exercises where I have to tabulate my feelings and reactions. And I just couldn't do it. Week after week after week, he would give me these forms to fill when I sink into one of my "holes" and I would bring them back empty. Instead, I would go and write something on arch.memory. And then one day he said, Alright, write something, anything, about how you feel and bring it next time. So I wrote that. And you can even tell from certain poems from that period that he, my therapist, figures prominently as a character (most notably perhaps in "Comfortably Numb"). And many other poems (perhaps my least favorite ones, but ones that Ahmad seems to like) have been written therapeutically: to get something out of my system (ex. "Exit", and all the ones with "corpse" in the title). I don't like them because I find them too crass, too brash, too angry, too forward. I like the more obscure ones, like you say, that hide more (like "You Lie"). So, yes, I know what you mean, more than you can imagine. But that is also perhaps why most of my poems are "downers" (as Wojtek puts it) and why I find it so difficult to write "happy" poetry (I do think my poetry loves life very much, though in its own disappointed way, life as it is not as it should be). And that is perhaps why I haven't been writing as much (I actually haven't been feeling so down!). I find it very difficult to write "descriptive" poetry, too. I never enjoyed descriptive writing to begin with: the driest part of "The Thorn Birds", I thought, was that one in the middle where she goes one describing the fields endlessly... Ah, kill me! And Laura Ingalls Wilder just slew me in "Little Home in the Prairie" with her endless description... Get on with the program, woman! I guess that is also why I prefer photos of people to those of nature: far more interesting! But I digress... Which bring us to...
let me start by saying that i think it is an amazingly coherent, well written and enjoyable article. i am going to buy his book of poetry-related essays and possibly a collection of his poetry. if i ever go to california, i am going to make it a point to go meet him. i think he’s very clever, very smart, and poetry needs him. and if i ever teach a poetry course, this is the first assigned reading.
i’d written quite a bit last night about the article, taking bits and pieces from it to then talk about, doing sections and stuff, but i’ve just deleted that because i’ve just finished the article and think it’s a better idea to address the whole issue. there is so much to talk about. i’m almost not sure where to begin…
the main idea, the main force, behind the article is that poets have, over time, separated themselves from the other arts (theatre, music (specifically jazz, in dana’s examples)) and from the intelligentsia of modern america. we have done this by grouping together in such a tight-nit family info-structure that we (as a mass) have carried the weaker poets on our shoulders. what would have been considered a poor and unacceptable poem 50 years ago is now published, awarded and praised because the poet is friends with this person, has published this much, has done this that and the other thing for the editor, compilers, reviews, etc. this is foetry, right? except dana does it with more finesse and colorful analogies.
i like the idea of poets merging with other arts. as much as i adore the “club” feeling that i’m starting to get off our little web of poetry-blogs (billy is the metaphorical bouncer, is he not?), i have always liked being the poet among the group of culturally and academically diverse individuals. this is what i was at university. dina painted, jonah played music, i wrote poetry, bunny was our scientist, rachel our politician, hortensja our model, audrey our ballerina, reid our cartoonist, keith our extravagant modern-anthropologist… we crossed all the lines. sure, there was more than one of most of these in the extended network, but generally, we had everything except a math major in our group (bunny was in the minor, so i guess she’s sort of the science/math brains all over).
and thinking back, i did talk about poetry with them, with dina at least. i did read them some of my poems, i even wrote poems for each of them. i was acting out as a poet, drawing my audience in. i think that poetry needs to go back to that format on a national, if not global, level. i’d very much like to consider that doing things like the word verification contest, draws in the non-poet. my two best friends from high school and my sister all wrote poems for that contest. people that don’t write poetry. lauren wrote a bit in middle school, but that was a therapy exercise, not a literary endeavor.
forums like poets101.com are fantastic for poets, but does it exclude and intimidate the non-poet? i imagine it would. perhaps i ought to check out the web designer’s other sites. i get the impression they are bit broader in topic. even as a poet, i enjoy those blogs that include drawings or photographs to accompany or at least break up the monotony of poem after poem. then on the other hand, i find the purity of a poetry-only blog rather comforting. the pure, clean… just poetry; those that let the poems paint the pictures. i don’t think blogging is the forum for which poetry will blossom back into the popular culture. i think it needs to happen on a real-life plane. i think that niches like billy’s lists are part of what dana sees as the problem. are poets too cosy with one another?
poetship is part of the solution. aren’t we spectacular? we are critics, ashraf, you and i. we disagree, we don’t pamper, we speak our hearts and minds about what we encounter. i think i might even start doing more reviews like the one i did for lilla that time. though perhaps not all as glowing? and not just poems of my friends. are poets afraid of telling the truth about other poets? i am a little bit. i don’t want to be the breaker—i don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. on the other hand. a bad poem is a bad poem and there isn’t anything i can do about it other than let the world know that i think it is a bad poem. right?
i think that that is all that poetry needs. for other poets to speak up about what they like and what they dislike and speak less of who their friends are. silliman doesn’t write very many negative reviews for the poetry he reads. perhaps if we start to speak up, non-poets will give us back our potency and our seat in the parliament of literature.
a: That is one amazing article you sent my way! It is so well-written: smart, consistent, coherent, well-researched and argued... I just haven't read an article this good and well-informed in ages! Thank you. And I am very glad it is catching on in the bloggosphere, as it deserves to. But I think the question you raised is a very good one: isn't this just another form of the very closed clique that the article is criticizing? Well, yes and no. On the one hand it is a band of poets; on the other I think it is a more diverse band of poets than you can find in creative writing programs. Just look at the two of us, an "insider" (you) and an "outsider" (moi) ;) And I think that's what makes our correspondence so good (amongst other things). That article was so right about attributing the decline in poetry to its inbreeding (amongst other things). And I applauded the fact that it had those 6 concrete steps at the end to make a difference: it took it upon itself not only to criticize but also to suggest a way out.
On the other hand, I revert to the argument above to suggest that other art forms have emerged that have taken on parts of what poetry used to do: satire, epic, politics, science, myth, religion, etc. And that is not a bad thing! I would never wish "Wings of Desire" away! Ever. It is a poem in a different form. I would so much prefer watching "Wings of Desire" over and over again than reading "Paradise Lost" once. So, we cannot expect poetry to be all that it used to be. It took new forms, new forms took some of its functions. I think we should accept its new diminished status and embrace those other forms, too. And that is why I agree with the article that we need to be more exacting, that there is a lot of crap passed out there for all the wrong reasons, and that maybe the market of creative writing programs, while beneficial to poets, might already be over-saturated. I believe in the "market", and that is why I was rejoicing when he made that Marx reference. And I think in a way what we are bemoaning is simply the natural result of over-abundance.
i love poets.org for their sound clips. i’m greedy and want more. though, overall, on published and easy-to-find-at-borders poetry, i don’t see why it ought be published online as well. in the case of tender buttons, wessex poems, howl, and i’m sure tons others, these poetry collections are so easy to find in book stores, and other than wessex poems, they are cheap (less than $10). why then, make them available online for free? gertrude stein does not need publicity. while it was nice that i could cut and paste that poem in an email, having found ALL of tender buttons online was heartbreaking for the mere fact that someone who doesn’t own it is going to read online and never purchase a copy, never expand the real-world-based poetry universe.
this all comes from my love of material goods (=books). i must remember to bring my darling wessex poems with me at the weekend. if you’re really good i’ll let you hold it J
there are some rather marvelous things about books that you cannot do with web pages. you can’t say “this collection, page ##” to a friend who’s clever and end up having a four-poem-long conversation. sure, i could have sent you links, and you could have done the same, but there wouldn’t have been the excitement of flipping through the book to get to the right page.
websites don’t have pretty covers; books do. also, you can read a book during take off and landing, whereas all lap tops must be turned off.
the argument for aesthetics goes on and on, doesn’t it? and we all know it. some people don’t think books have to worry. but i say they must. publishers don’t produce books like this one on my desk, from 1898. the pages are thick, the binding is strong, the pages are sewn with precision and care. the cover is sturdy, embossed and rugged. i have hard covered books from a mere 10 years ago that are falling to pieces; this is over 100 years old and is aging a bit at the edges, but is overall in much better shape that more recent books.
books have a smell, a charm, you can carry them around and feel really cool. also, i like to pencil in the margins of some poetry and some poetics (the stuff that’s a bit more dense and takes a bit more thinking). i find it rather difficult to get the same effect on a computer screen.
a: As sympathetic as I was to the case you made for books (or perhaps because I am that sympathetic to the case you made), it feels to me that in a way you stated the obvious. You made the aesthetic/sensual case for book, a case that I find very valid, but I would like to push the argument beyond "why books are great". I think that the threat that the internet and soft media poses to books and hard media is at the same time very real and overrated. As seductive as the argument you made is, and as seductive as books are, I don't think that is enough to carry them through, to stop the bleeding or decline of the medium, so to speak. I can imagine that any small bookseller can attest to this pain. On the other hand, I do not believe that the soft media will ever eradicate the hard media. I think they will make them painfully secondary, but never eradicate them. Part of the argument is the fragility of soft media: the Library of Congress still uses resin to store its most valuable audio; CDs are too fickle. (This argument was made in that Wired article I sent you the link to.) The other parts you have already covered, I think: those of convenience (I still print your longer emails and articles and then read them) and the sensual/aesthetic experience. Another thing that you alluded to is the objectness of hard media and therefore the idea of possession: to own a book because you value it (and the book format lends materiality to what is otherwise abstract, ethereal). And I think that is precisely why the Internet feels so threatening and is so pervasive: because in a way it is bringing words back closer to their abstract immaterial nature: it makes words (and music) paradoxically more difficult to possess (as objects) and easier to possess (by making it easier to disseminate). Ultimately, I think digital media are here to stay; technological progress doesn't (and shouldn't, I think) be undone. It just needs to be regulated, at best, and even that is often approached too naively. The argument that I keep making to Wojtek (and that I believe I have already mentioned to you) is not to be nostalgic about older media to the point that it limits one's appreciation of the new, which would be ultimately to one's own detriment. I am not advocating either the complete abandonment of the old and blind embracing of the new. I guess all I am trying to say is, know what each can do well so you can use them well. A book is not necessarily better than a movie, or a magazine better than a TV show, etc. So, I can understand your unhappiness about your beloved texts being available online, but I don't really think it's a one-to-one equation here: that people would go and read things online instead of buying them. If I wanted to read a whole book, even if its available online, I wouldn't do that. I don't think I'd even print it and then read it. I think I'd go and buy it: one, because I would like that and, two, because I can afford it. Now, if I couldn't afford it, I wouldn't, even if I wanted, but it would still be available to me, which is how I think it should be. And I don't think I am any more ethical than the average person. When I used Kazaa I used it mostly to get Arabic and European stuff I cannot find easily here (or that is way overpriced here because of lack of demand on it); but if I wanted a Madonna CD that is available at every other drugstore, I would just go and buy it because I love cover art and I think it is more convenient (put a copy on my iPod for work, a copy for the car, etc.) Similarly, the digital book allowed you to easily search for a certain passage and copy it, which is a great thing! So, I think it is a tad simplistic to argue the "downfall" of books on digital media: we still love them, and many else do, yet I would never wish the Internet away! (And I know that in a way I am preaching to the converted here, as I think you are the queen of digital poetry!).
Monday, May 01, 2006
i resisted the prose-form of poetry for such a long time. i was adamant that it wasn’t poetry. i sounded much like you did today in your comment. part of my first course on poetry at university was that one with noah, where he completely exploded my vision of poetry. we read tender buttons by Gertrude stein—she is the queen of the prose poem, though some would disagree with that statement, she’s who i think of when someone brings up prose-poetry—and i completely didn’t get it. okay, it’s poetry, but it’s more like paragraphs. then i read part of an interview with stein about what she was doing in tender buttons. the way she spoke of the words and sounds… she spoke like a poet. so i reread tender buttons and began, slowly, to understand.
here’s a section. my favorite section actually. it’s the section that, when i reread it, i began to get tender buttons and everything stein was trying to do...
A RED HAT. A dark grey, a very dark grey, a quite dark grey is monstrous ordinarily, it is so monstrous because there is no red in it. If red is in everything it is not necessary. Is that not an argument for any use of it and even so is there any place that is better, is there any place that has so much stretched out.i don’t know if it works out of context with the book. it kills me that the whole thing is available online (like wessex poems is) but if you want, you can read it all here… http://www.bartleby.com/140/ (it really … i feel like it’s a terrible waste to give all of these poems to someone for free, i don’t mean, for you to have them for free, but for me to give them to you, to not have to go out and get the book for you… it’s websites like this that (while really rather wonderful) are contributing to the ever growing fear of the disposal of books. it actually makes my heart hurt to see all of tender buttons free online. it’s a crying shame. (i think i need a closing parenthetical here)…)
i side tracked, sorry. that’s an entirely different email topic.
for a while i thought that prose poetry was just a cheap way out of getting a poem right (i feel like, with fish into six writing it in prose form means that i didn’t do the form-form (the verse) poem well enough and the easiest way of fixing it is to put it into prose poem (and it works for the poem, too, which makes it even harder to resist)).
in the new yorker (i’ve actually been reading it lately, can you tell?) there’s an interview thingy with an artist who at one point says that drawing hands and faces were too hard so he’d draw people with shot off hands and paint blood on their face so he wouldn’t have to draw the features. and he says it in such a cocky, proud, arrogant awful way!! i honestly believe that, before you can go breaking the rules you have to know and understand them first. HOWEVER, if you are doing it for your own pleasure, dabbling, having a bit of fun, do whatever you want, but don’t pretend, like this guy was, that you’re some super hot-shot mover and shaker with all the bits and pieces of some modern Michelangelo, because frankly, you’re not.
prose poetry is equivocal to this in that it may not take a genius to draw/paint, but i don’t think i could do it. it takes a bit of gift, a bit of practice, and eye for color and a knowledge of color. you can slap together a string of words and call it a prose poem. you can’t go ignoring syntax and grammar without understanding that you are ignoring it for your poem to work—if you do you are transparent to other poets. am i making sense?
what stein is doing, to go back to stein and to explain to you what there is to “get” out of her poems, is to form the surroundings of an object, a food, or a room. have you seen schindlers’ list? you know how the red coat is the only thing with colour? or the flames on the ceremonial candles or the gold ring?
those objects are the only objects in color to give them an over-powering emphasis. what stein is doing in “a red hat” is to paint the picture of everything surrounding this hat because, like she says, what’s so spectacular about a red hat if everything around you is red? now, if everything around you is grey and brown, a red hat is stunning. i think her choice of form is perfect for this. for what she is trying to achieve with her words—to put the poem in prose, to disallow it verse form, is to emphasize the point that she is not describing the red hat, but it’s surroundings. the red hat itself would make the poem into a verse. describing just why the red hat is so brilliant and beautiful is paralleled by the use of prose as a way of getting the reader to think more about verse form, the regular. what stein does is create the antithesis of the verse form of poetry.
i guess the main reason why a prose poem works for me—outside of stein’s revolutionary used of the form—is because it is a different kind of meditative poetry. it is an abstraction of poetry and an abstraction of traditional prose. there are certain elements which help to make a prose poem work. for example, short two-word sentences and punctuating vernacular. a line of soft sound words that ends in a lash. harsh s sounds or a z sound are always a nice ending to a breath. what i think is so profound about prose poetry is that it relies on the language to dictate to the reader where to breath and when to hold on. full stops (by that i mean periods) are useful, i rather enjoy seeing brackets in prose poetry, and other long punctuation like dashes and semi colons also aid. the key though, is the language and the poets ability to anticipate the readers’ understanding and capability to understand the language. there’s a lot of encoding and decoding that’s going on below the surface. really, when read by the poet, let’s say, one in the audience should not be able to tell the difference between a poem in form-form and a poem in prose-form.
you could easily argue that prose-poetry and flash fiction are exactly the same thing. i won’t stop you from that. names are fun, but they’re just names. poet-theorists are merely taxonomists of the written genres (it is as make believe as the internet—millions of people believe in this massive entity that isn’t even real); every day we define our favorite terms differently. it’s useless but i love it.
so there is a time and a place for prose, at least in one instance. personally i prefer not to write in prose poetry because i feel, unless a function of the content of the poem, that it is a cheap way of writing. brian writes a lot of prose poetry; however, brian, when he uses line breaks, uses them very wisely, very well and i do not worry that he could not have written any one of his prose poems in verse form.
i do enjoy reading prose poetry when it is entertaining—when it is funny or quirky. serious prose poetry, without justification, is awful. this is in part why i cannot wrap my head around lyn hejinian. though i own two of her books, i cannot understand nor appreciate nor enjoy her work—though i try constantly to do so.
there’s my schtick on prose poetry. i hope you gained something from it, or that it will at least give way to a really juicy debate. ^_^
a: Morning, dear:
I read both of your e-mails (umm ahmad & prose poetry) last night before I went out. The evening was nice, although it seems that I always feel old and not fun when I go out with single gay guys (even though one of them was older than me). I think it is the state of coupledom; do you feel that way around your single friends? And I was so tried from the day; it's the first time we bike to Center City this season, and I am so out of shape I was aching all over! In any case, back to your e-mails, I appreciate the fact that you just write, without the research; that I can do for myself. And as much as I appreciate your passion for Gertruge Stein and the Red Hat, I felt the same way as I did reading the Red Wheelbarrow: shrug! I could feel your passion in both cases, but I couldn't share it. And I am glad I read both e-mails at the same time, because I found what I thought to be a better example of prose poetry:
and you know now that some day, and i hope not too far from now, we will have the chance to shrink the globe down to the size of a dining room table somewhere in your tumultuous city. perhaps someday, too, you'll come visit my humble paradise, and i'll take you to my favourite beach so you can hear what silence sounds like.
I hope I don't make you uncomfortable everytime I do this (set you against your gods, so to speak). And that is not to say that everything you write is of the same level of excellence (nobody's writing is). But that is to say that I see it as part of my "duty" first of all to humanize these gods (for they were human, too) and to remind you of your worth (even if you might see is as biased). See, you did make your point clear, how you see prose poetry, and I appreciate your sensitivity to sounds and punctuation and form... But ultimately I don't think I share that sensitivity, or certainly not the same degree. For me these are tools; poetry is never about the punctuation and the sounds. If what you have to say holds no value, then no matter how much you dress it up, and add hisses and dashes, and break it and clump it, it will still have no value. And the contrary is true. For me the form of poetry is a form of distillation, of simplifying in order to make impact. And it is a thing of balance (as everything else in life?) That is why, no matter how evocative a red wheelbarrow is, or pseudo-philosophical a red hat is, for me they don't hold as much water as the vastness of the world, the distances between us, and the human confronting the sound of silence. Mind you, the sound itself is worthless to me, which is why I can't relate to most of the poetry about nature and I found it strange when you mentioned nature as a tenet of my writing; for me I think it is about the human experience in defining nature, and things, and time... A stone aging moves nothing in me, but a woman aging is what life and art are about.
I hope I didn't disappoint you in that I don't share your passion for certain things (but I am sure you don't expect it for everything, as I don't expect anyone to share my passion for Dalida). And that is not to say that I do not apreciate highly poetic prose (that is ultimately what I adore about "The Hours" and Harold Brodkey's Profane Friendship and Dale Peck's Martin and John). But that is to say that I appreciate the poetry within their prose, even when it is so distilled that it is in every sentence. Though I don't see that in the form, as much as in the sentence structure and especially in what they're saying. I don't think, no matter how good a poet you are, say something about shit and make it sound touching or moving or profound (I just though of shit as it seems the worst poetry I have read or heard was about that; though I have heard an excellent poem about hernia!).
But aside from all that, I have realized what is so precious about you: that you are not limited by yourself. You think of others (I guess it is that same degree of empathy that make your robot poems work so well). And believe me, most people (I know) aren't like that. And that is not to say that they are evil (the best example is the one I live with: his self is his port hole to the universe; everything is filtered and tinted with it. That is not to say that he is an evil person, but that is to say that he is a self-centered one.) And I think that is also why you find such ease in writing about others: other people and other things. Because you are capable of thinking of them on their own terms. And I think that is what makes you such a good poet, and good person. I don't think I am that way; I am (as established by my mother's letter) more self-centered. But that is not to say that I am self-limited. I think what works in my poetry is that through this port hole of myself I am capable of going deep enough to reach at the core of the experience that makes it human, and therefore gets beyond that limiting factor (I can imagining anyone bristling at the self-indulgence of that statement!). I guess all I am trying to say is: I was so touched by your letter to Ahmad...