“…I am more content with my barefoot rank than I ever was while running hard on ambition’s treadmill.
It’s not been a smooth road, I should add. Nor do I imagine I will ever achieve the perfect writerly bliss of non-ambition. As Donald Hall once noted in an essay, “nothing is learned once that does not need learning again”—nothing important, anyway, I believe. The old corrosive and envy-laden sense of ambition does appear in my soul on a regular basis, despite my best intentions. But I know what to do about it, at least. I send a poem I love to some friends. I attend an open mic and recite a poem by someone else. Every year I introduce my students to great poets of the past and cheer them in their own attempts to master the art. I swap new drafts with fellow poets. I write an essay like this one when asked, and hope in return to receive some comments, not from posterity but from you, Gentle Reader. I re-read Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman as needed, and remind myself how delicious it can feel to walk barefoot through this world.”
–from “My Barefoot Rank” by Davd Graham
found in Verse Wisconsin Issue 106 (July 2011)
“It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating hearts, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving for a long time ahead and far into life, is — solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves, may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough…”
–Rainer Maria Rilke
from Letters to a Young Poet, “Letter 7″