Day 269: The Man and the Two-Thirds Rule; ‘Prudent’

My first selection for National Poetry Month is a poem by American poet Kenneth Koch that I think is very relevant to my current stage in life, and I believe it would be prudent for most people to pay attention to its message as well.

Social Life, With Friends

-poem by Kenneth Koch

You want a social life, with friends.

A passionate love life and as well

to work hard every day. What’s true

is of these three you may have two

and two can pay you dividends.

But never may have three.

There isn’t time enough, my friends-

though dawn begins and midnight ends-

to find the time to have love, work, and friends.

Michelangelo had feeling

for Vittoria and the Ceiling

but did he go to parties at day’s end?

Homer nightly went to banquets

wrote all day but had no lockets

bright with pictures of his Girl. 

I know one who loves and parties

and has done so since his thirties

but writes hardly anything at all.

A long long time ago, back in college, my ex and I had a conversation about this poem. She refused to believe or accept it. She wholeheartedly wanted to prove it wrong and tried to hold onto anything and everything. I guess in a way she never outgrew that hopelessly optimistic perspective, for better or for worse. I never had a problem with seeing the world in this way. But I think that’s because, and you should all understand this, this is not a particularly negative or hopeless opinion. It’s a strangely unique perspective I think characteristic of a certain majority that not having it all means not having enough. That to be necessarily ‘missing out’ on one aspect is somehow indicative of a life not lived fully. But having ‘two can pay you dividends’, remember? It’s not about ability, or even capacity. It’s about time and effort and passion. You cannot feasibly be one-hundred percent committed to one hundred things. So rather than focus on what I may not have (as I was wont to do in the beginning of this all), I’ve learned to love what I do. I have no love right now. But I write more than I ever have. And though my friends and I are not as close, I still have a healthy and happy social life, supplemented with social gatherings like this weekend with new groups of new people, taking myself out to do the things I love and meet people along the way, and appreciating the people I do have in my life when they are there. How could I say I am incomplete, unsatisfied, or underachieving?

Not having it all is not the same as having nothing. And instead of focusing on the missing third, we can shift our perspective to understand and appreciate what we do have. In all reality, if or when I find someone, to give her the attention and care and love that we both desire and deserve, I will need to make time for her. Make room for her. And there simply isn’t enough, my friends. Right now I am focused on my career and furthering it and maybe changing or moving it. I am writing and learning and growing. I am socializing and meeting. It is a good fit for who I am and what stage of life I currently am in. These things shift and change, and though we may never have all three at the same time, there is nothing stopping us from happily and enthusiastically pursuing two at a time and feeling the benefit and satisfaction of that pursuit. Take this not as a warning, or even as a negative outlook. If anything, ever since realizing these three major aspects of life and how they work in contrast and comparison, I am much more at ease and find it easier to enjoy what I do have. I’m not trying too hard running around trying to hold onto everything.

Please, enjoy.

Day 269

Man: 236 Loneliness: 33

Day 259: The Man and the Proliferation of Poetry as per April; ‘Ordinary’

NPM Logo.jpg

In case you didn’t know, National Poetry Month is April! The Academy of American Poets founded the celebration in 1996 and since them it has become one of the biggest literary celebrations in the world. Authors, libraries, schools, booksellers, and yes even bloggers, all share their love for poetry during the month of April and help to continue to bring awareness and exposure into a very sophisticated and yet completely accessible and fun form of literature. Since its inception, National Poetry Month and the Academy of American Poets has focused on highlighting the legacies and achievements of poets, encouraging the reading of poems, helping teachers bring more poetry into their classrooms, increase the attention to poetry in media, increasing the publication and distribution of poetry, and encouraging more support for poetry and poets.

NPM AprilI would by no means ever consider myself a poet, nor do I think anyone would ever say as such about me. So, you know, this is a good place to start. From a place of very low, low expectations. If you’d like to see my first attempt in a very, very long time, you can read Day 65 Supplemental, in which I respond to a challenge from a fellow blogger with a poem. Even though I would never consider myself a poet, I do appreciate other poets and poetry in general. It is a beautiful form of literature and writing that requires a truly demanding mastery of imagery and subtlety to deliver as clear a message in five words what I usually do in ten. And when that’s done well, that’s really really cool. Poetry is one of those fascinating forms that can be exciting in the writing, reading, and even reading/performing of it. It can be visually stunning as well with certain poems formatted or written or just typed a certain way.

I’m not as exposed as much these days to poetry as I used to be when I was a child. One of Light in the Atticmy favorite childhood authors was the poet Shel Silverstein. You may have read his book The Giving Tree but I remember him best for his whimsical poetry collections A Light in the Attic and Falling Up. In high school I took poetry electives and considered myself somewhat of a poet, but most of my poems were angst-ridden lamentations on love. High school drama. I still cringe. In university I took a poetry class (required for English Education majors) and this was my first real opportunity to explore and investigate poetry purely from an observational and analytical perspective. It was kind of nice to know I didn’t have to write a poem at any time, and could just really dive into the nuances and subtleties and hidden meanings. When you only have so many words and lines to work with, you really have to dig deep to the full meaning, but its often very surprising as you start to unravel it all, just how much can be packed into a few lines.

This upcoming month-long celebration of poetry will be a great opportunity for me to go back and bring up old favorite poems of mine, learn about forms of poetry and poets from all around the world, and yes, even (very very sparingly) attempt to try and write poems in forms or on subjects that interest me. Throughout April this blog will transform from an ordinary day to day reflections and musings collection to poetry central. Mostly sharing some personal favorites of mine from childhood up til now, including a few that were recently shared with me from other fellow bloggers. I’ll also want to look into poetry around the world, especially Asian poets and poetry. The biggest stretch will be me trying to actually write poetry, but I think taking a few leaps and dives outside of your comfort zone is a healthy thing to help improve the things you are comfortable with.

Robin WilliamsIf you’d like to participate in any way during Poetry Month, there are various things you can do. Of course, sharing poetry or writing poetry would be great. And if you use the #npm17 to draw attention to National Poetry Month, that would help as well. April 27th is Poem in Your Pocket Day, where you are encouraged to print out a poem of your choosing and keep it in your pocket to share with family, friends, coworkers, or even just random strangers you happen to meet during the day. If you go to the Academy of American Poet’s official website, poets.org, you can also sign up to receive a poem a day in your invoice. I’ve always commented that WordPress seems to be a thriving community of poets and poetry so it’s definitely encouraging to see poetry so strong here.

Day 256

Man: 226 Loneliness: 33