Yesterday, I received a beautiful note from Madonna Bettit of Vermont, extending her appreciation after she’d read “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary.”
“Indeed, as you wrote: What will you do with this life?/And why do you wish to keep on living?” You have done something very beautiful. Your lonely, poignant poetry is beyond comment. This is a big reason that it has taken so long for me to write.
I thank God for your gift and I thank you for sharing it. Your family must be so proud! What a lasting legacy.”
As I’ve said in my essay, “The Book Just Loved Me!” for me, this is my payment for the hard work of writing the poems and putting this book together. Hal Zina Bennett who opened that door for me and helped me walk through it, had a similar view, shared by my father. That there are simply some projects that are labors of love, and worth doing, beyond the commercial pay-off. Hal is well-versed in that commercial world, holds a space in his heart for this other category of project, too.
Both types of projects deserve to exist and live. Whenever I’ve received such notes in the 3 years the book as breathed in a life beyond me, I feel so thankful we did it. And, this has further confirmed for me, Horace’s dictum of poetics that the two guidelines are that poetry (I would broaden that to all art forms) must be both “Useful and Sweet.” Recalling this essay and phrase is one of those sneaky ways that I receive value for my two years sweating through my English Masters Degree. Now, peripherally useful in my life…and one which leads me to label myself a “recovering English major.” Maybe I need to get a T-shirt printed up! Wonder if Garrison would sell it on the Prairie Home Companion site? He has an English Major T-shirt he sells there.