On a campus that didn’t much care for poetry, my college had two poetry prizes. I won one sophomore year, and the other one senior year, which pretty much made me Big Poet On Campus. Every spring, five seniors from colleges and universities around the state were chosen for the Poetry Circuit, where you got to drive around and give readings of your poetry with the other BPOCs. It was very prestigious, and I made the penultimate cut, but in the end I wasn’t chosen for the tour. When I expressed my disappointment to my writing teacher, he told me something that I’ve never forgotten. He said,
“In writing, early success leads to early cronyism, leads to early intellectual death.”
When you’re twenty-one and so is Bret Easton Ellis and he’s famous and you’re not, that can give you some hope. But now I’m thirty-eight and so is Bret Easton Ellis and he’s still doing okay and I’m blogging, and it makes me wonder: Is this it? I gave up on poetry when I got to the point where I was only writing sonnets and could only think in pentameter; I gave up on fiction because I didn’t have the attention span to write a coherent, necessary short story, much less a whole novel.
Way back on November 23, 1985 I wrote in my diary, “Maybe this is all I’ll ever write — journal entries.”
Maybe I was right.
Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
I come, my sweet,
to sing to you!
My heart rouses
thinking to bring you news
that concerns you
and concerns many men. Look at
what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.