“human being being human”


This POETRY tribute issue (June) devoted to Gwendolyn Brooks is fantastic—poems of homage, notes and photos from her archives, essays on her work and her life and their bearing on our poetry and our times.

One of my favorite bits is the following quote “written on a slip of paper in her archives”:

Who “does life” as a “poet”? One lives as a human being. In that activity, life “as a poet” is included, I guess, along with life as a black-eye pea boiler, life as a baby-maker, life as a lecturer, life as a Listener, life as a typist-for-five-lawyers. I never gave up love, lunch, book-reading, movies, restaurant-romping, strolling, friend-visiting, for “life-as-a-poet”-ing. Poeting has been, always, part of this life, my life as a warm-hearted resilient, open eyed human being being human. —Gwendolyn Brooks

This  may hold a little something back—creative people must sometimes say no to things in order to have time, space, and solitude to make their art. But the idea of art as one element of a very human life seems just right to me. The trick is in the balance, I suppose.

Also not to missed in this issue: Patricia Smith’s poem, “A Street in Lawndale.” Its third section begins,

Murders will not let you forget.
You remember the children you had—suddenly quarry, target—
the daughters with gunfire smoldering circles in their napped hair,
the absent sons whose screams still ride the air.

—Patricia Smith, from “A Street in Lawndale”

Here’s the POETRY Magazine website if you want to get your hands on this issue.

3 thoughts on ““human being being human”

  1. Beautiful meditation (as always), though I am continually challenged by the idea of balance. When you write, “The trick is balance,” do you believe that balance is possible? It strikes me that art making, in whatever form it takes, leads to some level of alienation and imbalance. This imbalance doesn’t necessarily take the destructive or Byronic excessive form, but it shows itself in the way the artist internalizes the art, in the very ways that artistic living seems to alter physiology, spirituality, empathy, and a host of other aspects that take artists out of balance (by which I mean the ability to find contentment and comfort with the various duties, activities, and pleasures of a modest and conventional life). Of course, you add, “I suppose.” And I wonder how much weight is embedded in that supposition. It seems to be almost an “I guess,” a set of crossed fingers, or a wish.

    • Joe, I used the wrong word. It’s almost never a balance, almost always a juggle—for me, at least. And yes, there was probably a bit of a wish in that “I suppose.” Thanks for reading.

  2. Pingback: friday with another screen door and balance juggle | the stanza

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