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Poetry Friendship on Earth


ISSUE:  Spring 1997

He thinks I’m pretty good—a lot of the time. . . .
But he has reservations. Something about my “looseness,”
something about “a tang of narcissism” . . . And he is
my friend! My trusted friend. I mean he and I go back,
we’ve had 30 or 40 lunches, since 1979
we must have sent each other 60 really good funny letters
about poetry, our stuff, other people’s stuff; we’ve had
an understanding. . . . So why can’t he think my poems are
  perfect?

I don’t mean perfect but I mean like terrifically good
with that certain radiance—that glow that I see emitted
by the pages of my manuscript. He of all people should see it.
God knows I’ve done my best to see and praise what’s good
in his work—despite his tendency toward the unsayable phrase
and his habit of giving poem after poem the same pattern or
  shape.

Does he realize, I wonder, that I do have reservations
about his work? If he does it’s because I’ve been honest
and he ought to be grateful for that. He ought to see
how my honesty is profoundly involved in the originality and
freshness of my work. He’s very smart but somehow
he never quite seems to catch on, to wake up
to how special my talent is. But

          it’s okay, I can wait;
maybe he’s just distracted—he’s been so busy lately. Really
he’s a fine person with a fine mind. Basically he’s a great guy.
I’ll send him my new poem and this time maybe he’ll shed
that crust of slightly cranky differentness that has slightly
clogged conversation during some of our 30 or 40 lunches
and this time maybe he’ll feel the way the words had to come out
exactly the way they did for me
and he’ll say “I wouldn’t change a syllable,” he’ll say
“Jesus, Mark, this is it! I only wish I’d written it.”

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