The waiter poured the wine and served our salads. We launched into a discussion about the function of poetry... ah, yes! I leaned forward.
One of the guests asked the poet whether his readership or audience was important to him. Without a moment’s hesitation he responded vehemently, “No! Of course not!”
He then proceeded to support his belief that one should write poetry only for oneself. “It is totally irrelevant and unimportant if anyone understands my work,” he proclaimed in a stentorian voice that could be heard throughout the restaurant.
During a brief pause, as he stopped to sip some wine, I poked my hand in the air to attract the great man’s attention and innocently asked, “But don’t you somehow feel that poetry should communicate?”
The scene that ensued was memorable. Apparently I'd hit a raw nerve.
Slamming his wine glass on the table, the poet shouted, “NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!!”
Angrily he waved his hands in the air, tipping over his wine goblet and water glass. In the midst of chaos and hasty cleanup, the poet continued his lecture, his voice rising to a hysterical pitch that caused all heads to turn in the direction of our table. Red- faced, gesticulating wildly, he informed me that surely anyone who ever wrote poetry to communicate was an idiot.
Okay, so I'm an idiot, I thought. And maybe that's why I couldn't find any depth of substance to this man's poetry.
It is now at many years later. I’m not sure what happened to this poet; in fact, I never heard about him again after that evening. Maybe I deliberately adjusted my frequencies and tuned him out, or maybe he adjusted his, and stopped writing.
I'm still wondering about him, and about me.
By tapping into the heart and soul of who we are, we access the deepest part of ourselves. Here’s where the fire burns--and that's what I call "being full of myself."
If, on the other hand, I want to see how esoteric, crazy or outrageous I can be--how many poetry nuts can I attract?--I'm much too full of myself to be able to communicate with anyone else.
Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" is my poetry bible.