Poets and Their Own Greatness
It's not that I don't believe a poet should be ambitious for her poems, I most certainly do. When I write, I strive for a divine connection between the poem and readers. When I read, I hope for a divine connection between myself (as reader) and the poem. In many cases, there's a level of disappointment. I can't tell you how many times I read poems recommended by friends I admire and respect that never come close for me. Or I recommend poems that I consider divine to those who feel/think differently.
I'm using "divine" because I don't like the word "great" in this context. It's been sullied by what I consider a perversion, an immature fixation, an authoritative, negative patriarchal perspective (which is by no means limited or inclusive to all men, so many women share it too). It's a static, one-sided fantasy. It discourages development, ignores wholeness (which always has limitations and inferiorities). When one puts her focus on her own greatness, which basically comes down to how others perceive and consider her poems, she is betraying her poems. Her priority shifts and is no longer on making the poems what they're supposed to be. How can they? She's too self-conscious of others and attempting to manipulate forces out of her control.
Once upon a time there was a very great poet. He won many great awards and was invited to speak at many great events. For the most part, his work was declared great and he had many readers and sold many books published by great presses. His greatness drove him to spend a great deal of time tormenting and attacking non-great poets who disagreed with him. His greatness led him to spend a great deal of time discouraging and bullying younger poets, young poets few ever heard of and nobody ever called great. He spent a great deal of time asserting his own greatness to all the less-than-greats. He was a very great, but miserable man. Some people said he felt constantly threatened and needed to protect his greatness at all costs. Some people said he was very sick and should be pitied. Some said he was just plain mean. Some said being great gave him every right. Some said greatness required a certain amount of hatefulness.
Who wants to be great?
p.s. I wrote this before I realized Amy King tagged me, but seems like we're on a similar wave length.