Excavation

I got this from Jon Winokur’s twitter feed. It’s a lot like what Benjamin Taylor and Robert Antoni taught me at The New School:

“The responsibility of a writer is to excavate the experience of the people who produced him.” – James Baldwin

Leave it to James Baldwin to define this whole addiction and ordeal so briefly, so clearly, so truly.

Jay Parini’s Advice to New Writers

From Jay Parini’s site:

“There is really only one worthwhile piece of advice. Write about what really interests you, and do it every day…”

Read the rest here, and check out Jay’s work while you’re at it. I really like what he says about reading and writing going hand-in-hand. When I am having a hard time writing, reading is always a kind of key.

To You Biographers of Caesar

To you biographers of Caesar,
            I am that murdered general, 
a Roman nose engraved on silver coin;
an alabaster column in perfect Roman order,
            a sword, a plough, a prefect,
a century of soldiers—
a bumper crop in Tunis or in Spain.

 To you biographers of Peter, 
            I am that Prince Apostle,
a Hebrew man enshrined beside the Po;
a traitor and evangelist fell prey to Roman order,
            a sword, an ear, a net for men,
a century of soldiers—
an empty cross along the Apis train.     
            
 To you biographers of Arthur,
            I am that coming high-king,
a Celtic myth in Celtic pride entwined;
a pauper and a prince, once, before the Roman order,
            a sword, a stone, a chalice, 
a fief of noble soldiers—
the Cup of Christ long kept by England's swain.   
             
 To you historians of Athens,
            I am that naval power,
the wisdom of my people long beheld;
Master over Sparta before the Roman order,
            a sword, a fleet, the polis, 
a city-state of scholars—
the light of pagan Europe in my blade.   

 You genealogists of Adam,
            I am the father sinner,
God's firstborn from the dirt of Eden's shade;
a farmer and a workman, the sewer of disorder, 
            a sword, a tree, the rocky earth,
left to my warring children—
their history still in my image made. 



  
  
I wrote this maybe 15 years ago while I was reading Leaves of Grass.  The poem is really nothing like “To a Historian,” but I loved that title so much.  I think that was the impetus.