For the Young Who Want To
by Marge Piercy
“Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.
Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.
Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.
The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms
is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.
The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.”
I discovered this particular poem through Karen Finneyfrock’s blog. If you haven’t read any of her work, I would recommend taking a look at Ceremony for the Choking Ghost. She kind of reminds me of Billy Collins, as he is the only other contemporary poet that I find myself capable of reading. Also, the cover is quite aesthetically pleasing. This is a plus for me, as I purchased my copy at its full retail price over at Elliott Bay Books. Which I will occasionally do because I love that bookstore.
Anyway, Finneyfrock is awesome, and due to her position as one of the two writers-in-residence over at the Richard Hugo House here in Seattle, available to chat about her awesomeness. Or your own desire for awesomeness.
I’m still debating whether or not I should request such a consult. Which I’m actually serious about. Well, both of the previously stated things. Both that she is available to meet to discuss writing, and my consideration.
Since I never know what to ask in these situations, situations where you’re free to pick one’s brain, I’m hoping that someone, anyone, will leave a comment with viable questions that will make me either sound ambitious or professional. Professionalism trumps ambition, but their viability is essential. If I go in there without fully-formed questions or ideas, my overriding impulses will make it an incredibly awkward situation for both of us. Mostly her.
Anyone got anything good? General suggestions will suffice.