Are we not of interest to each other?

Why do we move so far from people we love? Why are we so hungry?

What kind of poetry do we write with our thoughts? What stories do we tell ourselves?

Why are we so privileged? Why is privilege so limited?

Why do we try to be self-contained? The poet Elizabeth Alexander said, “and are we not of interest to each other?” (Isn’t that why we love our phones so much? Aren’t we trying to connect, even if they sometimes serve to disconnect?)

Why are some people starving while some of us have abundance? Why is it so hard to spend our money in the right places?

Does it count when we travel to a poor country and spend American money there? Is this supporting human beings, or exploiting them?

Do we know how much of our money comes from pure chance? How do we uncouple our worth from our wealth?

How many hours a day do we spend doing what we really want to be doing? What is our highest calling, anyways? Do we think about it?

What is the psychological evolutionary reason for self-doubt? How do we transcend it?


Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”),
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

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