Monday, November 10, 2008

Maps


               One held up a leaf,
the other his bare white hand.

“The asylum is that way,
                                                        friends.”


(first publication)

Note: The letter “s” in “friends” makes all the difference. Without it, there would be only two people in the poem. Add the “s” and there are three. It’s a miracle, I tell you.


Update:
“Maps” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

7 comments:

Joseph Hutchison said...

Ah, but not just three necessarily. My guess is there's a whole crowd of us....

William Michaelian said...

I thought you looked familiar!

vazambam said...

"....this situation of not having a very large audience has something good in it, too. I mean, that it educates you in a certain way: not to consider that great audiences are the most important reward on this earth. I consider that even if I have three people who read me, I mean really read me, it is enough. That reminds me of a conversation I had once upon a time during the only glimpseI ever had of Henri Michaux. It was when he had a stopover in Athens, coming from Egypt,I think. He came ashore while his ship was in Piraeus just in order to have a look at the Acropolis. As he told me on that occasion: 'You know, my dear, a man who has only one reader is not a writer. A man who has two readers is not a writer, either. But a man who has three readers'--and he pronounced 'three readers' as though they were three million--'that man is really a writer.'" --that was George Seferis in his 1970 Paris Review interview and it's something that has always kept me close to the ground when all around me are winging indignant birds--call them Harpies if you wish.

~im just only me~ said...

:)

brian a j s said...

And so it is.

William Michaelian said...

Great anecdote, and a beautiful finish. I think this calls for fly-swatters all around. Interesting, meanwhile, that your thoughts should follow “Maps,” as the question of readership didn’t enter my thinking during its composition. Of course, it’s not the number of readers that counts as much as their hunger and attention. That goes especially for one’s first reader, the author-writer-poet himself. By and large, it seems we earn a readership that mirrors our own strengths and shortcomings.

Joseph Hutchison said...

That last sentence—"By and large, it seems we earn a readership that mirrors our own strengths and shortcomings"—strikes me as wisdom. The reverse may be true as well: the writers we value mirror our own strengths and shortcomings. But now that I type that notion in this little comment box, doubt creeps in. I think of readers who value writers for the strangest of reasons: because they grew up in their town, or because they also drink too much, or because they belong to the same ethnic or social class, or because their politics or stars are in alignment. Other readers—I'm among them—are always looking for news (content) and/or a view (angle of vision) that had escaped their notice; for such readers, the secondary aspects of writing—the author's biography, critical approval, copies sold, prizes won, etc.—are irrelevant and can sometimes be a distraction. It's one of the downsides of growing older: we lose the freshness of discovery, the pure ardor, that we experienced in our youth when we read without having to peer through the veil of reputation and without wearing these damned spectacles, whose thick lenses have been shaped by the boatload of books we've already read.