Santa Monica, California, USA
ESSORANT: Heck of good example and follow up question.
Since you couch the question as something you are asking people individually, I respond with a personal answer:
Per the Introductory statement: Through Military, Social Security, Medicare, Medical, and Housing Authority benefits, the US government has taken me under its protection and given me the possibility of devoting the rest of my life to poetry. That is, I don’t have to work for a living. As long as Deb and I are content to live modestly, thanks to the Government. we will “always” have roof overhead and food to eat without punching any particular clock.
The “always,” is conditional, of course. Disasters happen, governments fall, etc, but for the nonce, and what I can tell of the immediate future, we’re OK.
So the question for me is not entirely speculative, but it does bring up some expanded notions re the “dedicate the rest of your life to poetry” part.
I have to ask what that might mean to you specifically. If circumstances were such, that is, if the academic creds were gained through formal study of poetic literature, and a choice were made to spend a life teaching and writing “about” poetry through formal career and beyond, without ever writing a single line, does that qualify one as dedicated to a life of poetry?
Similarly, if one is “free" enough to choose simply to read poetry, pretty much to the exclusion of other types of literature, for insights gained or the just sheer joy of it, is that a valid example of dedicating one’s life to poetry?
Similarly, if at some point a non-writer and non reader, casual reader or avid reader has circumstances which permit the support of poetry through creating a publication outlet or an internet site, for poetic expression, and keeps it going, like Black Swallow, City Lights, or PiP, with no lines written, does that constitute a life dedicated to poetry?
Or are you asking about this in a Thomas Merton sense, who forsook everything including speech and interaction with others to dedicate his life to poetry? Even that’s only a half decent example. Merton was equally dedicated to religious meditation. Or is there not much difference between the two?
At any rate, having the option, I am choosing a dedication to poetry for what time I have left, the reading, writing, publishing, yapping, and occasionally teaching parts.
The question might be “why poetry?”
I could, with close to equal amusement, spend my time constructing scale model airplanes or becoming immersed in Meso-American cultural anthropology, two other long term interests and wonderful time killers for my days of leisure.
Why poetry, then? Is this no more than making a judgment call? I don’t know anything beyond the simple notion that poetry tickles me more than other options right now, and it has a sustaining quality.
Infamous pastes which some people despise:
“I don’t want to set the world on fire,
I just want to start
The flame in (my) heart.”
And, butchering Bob Dylan:
“There’s something going on here, but I don’t know what it is, does I, Mr. Jones?”
Not much “Philosophy 101” in this, but an honest response.
Best, the other other Jim.
[This message has been edited by oceanvu2 (01-13-2008 10:45 PM).]