Saturday, February 2, 2008

Phlogiston After

Well, I was going to post about NaSpiMoMo and elemental Fire and knitting, but after seeing the Third Annual Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading at Deb's and Margene's, it occurred to me to offer this instead.

For the Young Who Want To

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.

         -- Marge Piercy, 1980

And the author's comments on What do I do if no one will publish my book?

Regular programming to resume tomorrow.


--Deb said...

Ooh, Ina, I LIKE that one!

Jessie said...

This is a fabulous, too true poem. I just emailed it to a bunch of people. Thank you for sharing.

dragon knitter said...


i had to get a piece of paper for people to believe i could work wonders iwth food, even though i'd been doing it for 10 years by the time i'd gotten the paper.

nice choice

Bridget said...

So true, in some way, for each of us.