I subscribe to several journals and magazines, which range from People to National Geographic. I only keep the issues of National Geographic, however, and one other: Poetry, which is probably one of the longest running journals of fine and literary poetry in the nation, if not the world. I don’t like everything I read between its covers, but there are enough gems and lines of beauty and earnestness that I keep subscribing—and will continue doing so for as long as I can.
I was cleaning the other day (oh, be afraid), and found a March 2006 issue buried under a stack of books. Flipping through, I opened up to the editorial, and read this:
It is very difficult to predict what the readers of the future will choose to preserve, but one thing is certain: they won’t choose much, and they will think we chose badly. Indeed, even if you are a well-known poet reading these lines, even if your Upper East Side castle is packed with prizes and undergraduates fling their undergarments during your readings, the chances are good that you and your work will lie down in the dust together.
Does it seem cruelly inadequate that, out of all those hours these poets spent in solitude and silence, and given all the life they sacrificed for the sake of their work, only a handful of poems, maybe nothing more than a stanza here and there, persist in the consciousness of a later generation?
Little comfort, yes. But then, life is for the living, and we write and create—all of us, no matter your calling or profession (because the two are not always the same)—because we don’t have a choice. We are here, now, and even if nothing we do survives us, so what? Nothing lasts forever. It does, however, lend a certain immediacy to the work at hand. Do as much as you can, do the best you can, because time is always running out.
On the other hand, you can always carve your work in stone.