Like so many other things, I come to the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe later in life, having read him over the years only in snippets and dribs and drabs. But maybe that’s about to change.
Then again, maybe it isn’t. What prevented it before, namely my ignorance and preoccupation with little things like trying to survive, might well go on preventing it — not to mention the inordinate amount of time I spend scratching out proof that this struggle of mine is as much poetry as it is accident, and that my presence here is no greater, smaller, or more meaningful than yours.
It’s also comical. I’m quite happy with the mess I’ve made, and I defend it with a certain childish pride.
I can easily point to contemporaries who are more knowledgeable than I am in literary matters, and who can write far more effectively about the nuances of fiction, poetry, and everything in between — even if I do feel on occasion that in their erudite analysis they miss the point. It’s so easy to get carried away with ourselves and what we know that in expressing it we come to believe we’re holding some kind of weapon or advantage. The fact remains that my illiterate forebears knew more about living than I do, and, quite possibly, all of these other folks combined. What matters most, I think, is that we learn to make our own music.
I remain devoted to books and the printed word. I am equally devoted to serendipity, contradiction, and spontaneity in the life I lead. I love listening to my contemporaries, and I’m never too proud to absorb what I can of their learning. And when I feel I have something more important to do, I love ignoring them as well. Naturally, what goes around comes around. I accept the consequences — and I love them as well, even as I rail against the night. I love laughing at myself.
Works of Goethe
Bigelow, Brown & Co., Inc.