In the most recent issue of American Poet, the journal of the American Academy of Poets, there is an advertisement for a book, Coming of Age as a Poet: Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath, written by Helen Vendler, who seems to have written a great number of books on poetry.
The blurb in the ad, which probably comes straight from the jacket sleeve (although having not read the book, I can neither confirm or deny this), starts with the following sentence, which I found most intriguing:
To find a personal style is, for a writer, to become adult; and to write one’s first “perfect” poem — a poem that wholly and successfully embodies that style — is to come of age as a poet.
To come of age, to reach maturity as a poet. Hmmmm … I wonder if that achievement is self-measured, or if its length is drawn against the yardstick of others. Which brings me to my current train of thought: as a Druid, I am more than a poet. I am a poet, musician, historian, philosopher, teacher, and priest. How does one come of age in a single discipline if one’s life path is multi-disciplinary? Does not maturity (or immaturity) in one area affect one’s level of achievement in all others? And what is the purpose of that maturity? For me, the ultimate goal of poetry is not simply to influence other poets; neither is the goal of any preacher or priest to influence only other preachers. At least, not that alone.
My audience is humanity. My goal, I suppose then would be to assist humanity in the recognition of that humanity. Or something like that.
Perhaps my self-questing is the result of having recently started rereading Plato’s Republic. Resulting in the question, what is the ultimate purpose of performing any action?
What is the reason a musician plays? A poet writes? A preacher preaches? A philosopher ponders? A teacher educates? Who is really their audience?
It boils down to a quip that I made several years ago when I contemplated writing music reviews. In order to change the way people think about music, first they must be thinking about music in the first place. So how to ensure that prerequisite dependency of thinking on a subject before launching into said dissertation? Who really cares if people who are on your wavelength are already listening? Aren’t words on their subject extraneous, like coals to Newcastle? Dr. Gene Scott, a Los Angeles based preacher, once said that there are two kinds of people in any congregation … there are saints in the making, and there are preachers. If you’re not a saint in the making, and you don’t like what the preacher in front is saying, you are obligated to form your own church. How that relates, I leave you to decide, dear readers.