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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Poets' Paradigm: rich in spirit, poor in pocketbook

Rich in Spirit, Poor in Pocketbook:
entering the poets' paradigm

Chris Faiers

Most fellow poets I've known have been rich in spirit, but poor in pocketbook. With the global financial collapse of two years ago. large portions of the rest of the population are being forced to consider the economic conditions many poets consider normal, even ideal.

As I prepared to start this brief essay, I received my daily email from poet/astrologer Michael Zizis. It was a quote by Robert Graves, There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either.

Too true. This is the reality most poets accept and live by. I remember when I was starting my small literary press three decades ago. Two poets who were beginning to establish credible reputations decided to become lawyers. At the time, being incredibly naive, I couldn't fathom how two such talented wordsmiths could choose this path in life. Why be a financially secure lawyer, and a respected member of society, when you could be an impoverished poet looked down upon by a capitalist society which worships money, power, success and consumerism?

Scientists are now describing an "empathy gene". When I was a hard-core lefty, my comrades and I used to think right wingers were stupid. Decades have proven this untrue. But maybe the explanation of a missing empathy gene does explain the attitudes and behaviour of most of our political leaders (the ultimate oxymoron).

Perhaps there is a yet undiscovered "poet gene" which leads some down the garden path of poverty, misunderstood empathy, and little or no public recognition, but which does cultivate a richness of the mind and spirit. These strange creatures with this genetic anomaly are POETS!

In 1821 Percy Bysshe Shelley concluded his essay A Defense of Poetry with the sentence, Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. We are not lawyers, nor politicians, and we often consciously choose to live in conditions normal people would rightly consider appalling. But generation after generation of new poets are born, and continue to choose this path.

The richness of spirit experienced by all poets, and beautifully expressed by some, is life enough for those with a true understanding of the wonder of this human existence. I think of William and Dorothy Wordsworth wandering the English Lake District, tiny Dove Cottage more than sufficient refuge from the not-so-rugged wildness of their domain.

Closer to home, I think of shaman/poet Jim Larwill, living year round in his cottage lacking indoor plumbing, content to watch the seasons change around his small lake in rural Quebec.

We daydream of the "great generation" of Canadian poets, Milton Acorn sitting on a sand dune by the shores of his native Prince Edward Island. Al and Eurithe Purdy cozied to Roblin Lake, hidden even from public acclaim in the pioneer hamlet of Ameliasburgh.

Simple lives on the surface, but lives more fully lived, more deeply understood and in tune with the phases of the moon, the length of winters, the breezes of spring, the flowers and the falling leaves. These are ecologically valid ways to live, No SUVs to carve through downtown traffic. A jug of homemade wine, a pail of fresh water from the lake, and thou beside me in the Canadian wilderness, perhaps.

Cliched, yes. A role model for a less money-oriented future society, which has suddenly, impossibly, become Now. Hopefully.

We can whine and complain about our dwindled mutual funds, our inability to afford a new car this year, and the loss of our daily support for the local trendy cafe. Or we can learn to live like our role model poets, the unacknowledged legislators, who have been thriving on bucolic, back-to-the-land lifestyles since we shared our first dens with moneyless wolf brethren.

Rich in spirit, poor in pocketbook. The new paradigm is here, free yourself to enjoy it.

Publication credit: first published in Tough Times: When the money doesn't love us
edited by John B. Lee
Black Moss Press, 2010

1 comment:

Conrad DiDiodato said...

Well said, Chris!

An elegant description of a true Canadian poetics. I've always wondered why nationally we haven't all been as excited as you and Milt and Jim (& myself) about a distinctively rural Canadian poetry, from which our entire way of living & writing actually comes. I have my reasons why we're losing that but now is not the time for that discussion.