“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”—Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry
For the past few months I’ve been miserable at work and, what’s worse, unable to pinpoint the reason. To be sure, the constant struggle to raise funds and the endless hours seated before a computer screen wading through a sea of tedium expressed in ones and zeros hasn’t helped matters. Yet it has felt like something deeper is at play. After all, it isn’t like the nature of my job has suddenly changed. Sure, the amount I spend with clients has slowly and steadily diminished; and sure, the bigger we get, the more paperwork and reporting there is to do. But I’m not averse to hard work, and I fully understand that social change is about 1 parts warm and fuzzy to 10 parts roll up your sleeves and get shit done.
Yesterday Bianca and I saw the film Interstellar in IMAX. This is not a movie review, but suffice it to say that the stunning images of the planet and the stars, the story of our drive to explore and conquer and survive, reminded me of what has been missing. I am neither an entrepreneur, nor an athlete, activist, Jew, atheist, vegetarian or any number of other adjectives. No, I am a poet and, as such, I need poetry to thrive.
What do I mean by poetry? In order for me to survive the drudgery that leads to social change, and in order for me to maintain my enthusiasm in the face of constant setbacks, I must keep one foot dipped in the wonder and mystery of life, and death, and love.
Of course, there is a balance to be had. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was completely submerged in poetry. My accomplishments were limited to ecstatic writing which, though beautiful, was also insufficient, for I also need to strive for social justice in order to remain hopeful and content. Lately I’ve swung too far in the other direction: excessive pragmatism and “taking it day-by-day” can kill the poet’s poetry.
I am no longer the poet who wrote:
“A mystery consumes me. I pass the morning in ardent search of last night, and furrow my brows as though dreams would return in the grooves of my forehead. That is not enough. Nothing is enough, and yet I never can go faster or slower than one second at a time. My enthusiasm teeters between the unbearable and the blissful.”
No, I’m now a more mature, pragmatic poet. My verse speaks to justice as much as it speaks to love. And so long as I retain that verse even as I spend my days immersed in grant writing, policies and procedures and HR issues, I will be able to thrive regardless of the wall of today’s concerns that so easily obscure the bigger questions that forever excite my soul.
You can read my book of poetry, Certitude, by clicking here.