The Soloist

(31 January - 1 February 1994) after George Eliot

I write to please myself and a few friends, but I sometimes think my writing will earn a fame that would make me rich, although I wouldn’t want to make it too easy, because each reader benefits from the reader’s efforts. I hope my work has more than hope to support my thoughts of fame and riches. At least it pleases me. I write, therefore, because I’m conceited; I like to see myself follow a thought or feeling to the edge of . . . I don’t know. Wherever it goes. Observation is not easy for any of us, because too many thoughts impinge on understanding, because too many are pastimes, not tools, or because stronger interests interrupt. My stomach pulls on my heart, my feet are cold, my tongue is dry, my eyes burn from strain, so I can pretend to be worthy of fame—at least with effort. As a poet, one can take license to surmount the sordid effects of reality, or to articulate the sordid effects of reality; one can take license to select the parts that fit the whole, or the whole that fits the parts. Being a poet is being a little god, in control of moments that might glorify their maker. No, I might be conceited, but that’s not why I write. I am a noble creature after only an increase of perception. Life is meaning; meaning is understanding; understanding is explaining; explaining requires perception; perception requires an army of efforts, like foot soldiers, that seldom march in only one direction. I am trying only to explain a few things, to console myself with a few explanations. And this is what I have to show for it. I’m not any richer; I write only to please myself and because I’m lucky to have a few friends who are pleased to make their efforts.