Why I write


Striking a suitable moody pose for the jacket of the last poetry book.

I write,  as Frost put it, as a stay against my own confusion, but also with twin hungers for meaning and to do justice to this life and life beyond. But always with a sense of humility. I don’t have answers, merely guesses, little hypotheses I offer to see if you agree they are worth pursuing; and sometimes with questions, as much to face my own vulnerabilities as to try to guide anyone, or anything.

I write, too often, out of a self-conscious earnestness, trying so hard to be seen as a serious person, and could stand to take myself less seriously. Instead of striving to be a Hemingway or Steinbeck or Sandburg (however worthy they are), I should just find my own voice and let the devil take the hindmost.

I write sometimes as a confession of some failure or other, as a way to turn and face the dragons of guilt or shame or insecurity, and by facing, forgive myself. Quite selfishly, this is a choice to grow. Struggle is also growth, and must be engaged.

I write for the same reason people carve their initials into a tree, or leave “I was here” graffiti on the stones of famous places. I existed. I was special, wasn’t I? Even though few will care, beyond my loves and family, and even then, only for as long as they live. It’s all to complain about how little the Universe seems to care about any of us as individuals. I cannot imagine the world going on without ME, yet know it will. So, I write to leave some temporary marker behind. It’s silly. How many can name who had the top movie of 1987? Or who the kings and queens of Persia were, after all this time? Everything passes, but I still make the effort.

And I write, in the end, from a sense of gratitude for the world, the beautiful world we try so hard to destroy, and for the gift of living in it for a time. To hold a newborn child with both hope and terror for its future, or to make love to a woman who means more than life; to stand on the shore of a vast ocean and hear the whispers of mystery and distances beyond horizons; to bask in the presence of quiet giant trees, ready to welcome us into deep history and loamy mysteries.

In the end, I write for all of this, and for the last most of all. At it’s most honest and true, writing for me is an act of prayer and homage for the privilege of life itself. And for the sometimes forlorn hope that touching meaning and justice on behalf of life is a kind of redemption.

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