Archive for the ‘On Writing and Art’ Category

Attention, Personnel of the Department of Why Me. I have an important message from the Minister of I Don’t Give a Damn.

It will no longer be relevant nor necessary—starting at this very moment—to itemize, count or retain any further connection to your inventory of sorrows.

Nor will it, from this moment on, be necessary to please, answer to, or be held accountable to anyone else except the Head Manager of the Department of Yourself: YOU.

We are in crisis mode right now. What you think is normal, is not. What you think you are entitled to, you are not. What you think you deserve, you do not. What you wish to be and experience, however, will happen if you abandon accepted protocols and proceed with abandon. Preferably with verve, calculated madness, balls and as much controversy as is inevitable for the expression of a healthy self in an ailing world.

You are hereby ordered to go shopping for a uniform, for your reassignment to the Chief of the Too Fabulous to Care department. Here is a small voucher from the universe. Go to the Salvation Army today; it’s 50% off day. You will know what you need when you find it. Yes, like that hot pink disco record left behind by some DJ who dumped their entire collection of dance LP’s. In black gothic script, it said: “Heaven is a place on earth.” (Yes, put it right by your door.) Or those James Bond sunglasses. The ties. That zipper-happy, shimmery pleather jacket the color of labradorite. The three-piece suit that came right out of your dreams. Yes. You have understood.

All past psychic debts, complaints and unfinished business, are hereby declared null and void.

All resentments, grudges and bets are hereby called off.

All anticipation and gleeful spectatorship in other people’s karma is hereby unnecessary. Our CEO and Corporate Angels are handling that quite nicely on their own.

You are hereby required to make sure that, every single day from here on, you take some time to:

– dream (aloud, to strangers whenever possible)
– sing (preferably loudly, in public, while people are staring at you)
– dance (ditto)
– wear something that clashes and yet works
– break at least one taboo
– humiliate yourself publicly at least once
– fight for justice, beauty and truth in at least one small way
– offer at least one hug or kind word to a friend, stranger or enemy
– make at least one harmless, life-affirming advance at an attractive fellow human
– let at least one thing in your mind go (to make room for something else)
– tackle at least one small but major task COMPLETELY
– consider a hairstyle or lifestyle or idea-style change (at least once daily)
– eat and sleep (novel concepts, I know).

And when all else fails… remember, this message is being sent to you from the Minister of I DON’T GIVE A DAMN. We would be happy to provide free training in this skill set to the Why Me department, should you require additional assistance in the art of being too freakin’ fabulous to care… about anything but THAT WHICH REALLY MATTERS.

Which, after all, dear Personnel… is up to YOU to choose.

Thank you for your time and have a great day.

The Secretary of the Interior (of your Brain).

© Sarah Noack 2008


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On a Gemini day when chorophyll awakens in the air, I remember Boston. I remember the sound of the T. I remember the sound of traffic stretching over a city, bike messengers riding past, billboards… the smell of grass growing by the Charles. Maybe this is why I am drawn to moving to Richmond these days. I miss that: a city divided by river, river lazily flowing through like some intentional feng shui water feature that draws bankers into the city and drives up the real estate prices until I can’t afford to stay there anymore. I remember the peculiar scent in the air every June, when anything is possible. It only smells this way when summer is precious. In the South, summer is taken for granted. It is the default mode of life.

Missing is such a circular thing. It goes nowhere. Today I am missing Boston. While I lived in Boston I found a million places to miss. Nothing was right. I wanted to be in Puerto Rico, in Africa, in India, in New York. Tomorrow I may go back to Boston and miss the South.

Sometimes I think about people I miss. I am strange. I think I am different from most people; I never stop missing friends. I never stop looking for them under rocks. I always pine for their words, their energy, the traces of their arms where they once hugged life back into me. I carry each person with me that has changed me, forever, no matter what happens between us. A friend could ignore me, insult me, ditch me in favor of a love interest of the appropriate gender after I’ve put my heart and soul into loving them as only a friend can, or scorn me. It doesn’t matter. I’m a fool. Like a dog, I continue loving. I forget the hurt and just remember how it felt to love them, to experience the beauty of their soul in an eternal sense—no matter what I got back from it.

And, strangely enough, in many cases, people come around. Eternity is eternity, and not the same as the everyday passage of time. The friend with the jealous husband gets divorced and needs your support and friendship once again. The lover who was too busy for you with their art suddenly sees that they made a big mistake and comes to you when they are down. Do I turn them away? Almost never. I’m a fool. But I’m like the Fool of the Tarot deck. A conscious fool. The card numbered Zero, outside all numerical, material reasoning. The one who will love and remember and hold on when any sensible, self-protecting person would have picked up their things and left.

Do I have poor self-esteem? Hardly. Do I allow myself to be treated badly? I certainly try not to. I love myself tremendously. I am not any sort of masochist—physically or emotionally. I am just a fool. I love without asking why. I remember without judging. I know that people can change, that miracles happen, that today is today and yesterday was yesterday. I give without keeping score. And I feel without sorting out the pain from the pleasure. I’m like an open wound walking blissfully into the abyss, one foot off the cliff, jester cap on my head—telling jokes as I give myself away. I love these fleeting butterfly moments of communion, these northern lights in the sky of souls—knowing all the while that nothing beautiful can be owned, nor can northern lights keep us warm at night.

I am The Fool. I hold onto things. I love that which cannot pay back. I continue to love long after it’s gone—without blame, without anger or disdain. I always remember the best things I shared with someone. I remember long after others have counted their losses and moved on.

Although even a conscious fool is still human.

© Sarah Noack 2007

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I wish I had the energy to write poetry these days. My life is a poem, and the well of my mind feels dry. Or incubating? I don’t know. I just feel consumed with the present moment right now, and unable to get it up poetically anymore.

Is there life after “happily ever after?”

Can art be incubated in the cozy shell of contentment, or does it require an oven of tension to produce properly delicious results?
Is there such a thing as too much peace? What kinds of ailments does it cause? Hypersmugness? Literary impotence? 

Is there something in all tormented artists that refuses to stay content for too long… that runs at the prospect of too much ease and comfort? Am I one of those people who believes, deep down inside, that in order to stay wild… I have to constantly break out of the wombs I find myself in, no matter how pleasant they feel?

Is it wrong to feel sentimentally attached to joys that may someday reach their expiration date? To frame them and put them on the pedestal of forever? To agree to tiptoe around certain subjects and agree to disagree about others, so that you can have a palatable experience on earth together free of any of the growing you both actually so sorely need (and on a subconscious level, were attracted to about each other in the first place)? 

Is it possible to predict the future? Is it even right? In a sense, marriage is something from some back-street gypsy storefront, because it pretends to do just this. But not just the future tomorrow or next year… forever. “Till death do us part.” 

How ironic that the church hasn’t noticed. 

Is it wrong to know as deeply as I do, that all things are bound to change or fade away like the pink petals Jeni made snow of today? Sometimes, they change with us, and that can be amazing when that happens. There is nothing more beautiful than a friendship, residence in a place, relationship or family bond that has gone through a lot of quantum leaps and keeps on being more meaningful with each one.

But, sometimes they just don’t. Sometimes you just can’t move past the blocks, and that’s OK… we all have forever, and not every experience is really meant to benefit us permanently. 

Sometimes it’s unsettling to people how easily I can flow on like a river. My nature is dynamic and full of contradictions; I can be so capable of joy and gratitude, yet too much ease makes me uneasy. It doesn’t mean I don’t love or get attached in my life. It means I understand that loving is being true to myself, even when it seems painful or impersonal. If I’m not 100 percent authentic in my own skin, I can never really love another person. And they can never really love me. When it comes to love and happiness, I’ve always been a warrior. What’s comfortable and flattering is much less important to me than what is true. “Free speech is the lifeblood of love,” Tokyo Godfathers quipped synchronistically to me the other day, as Hana the crazy drag queen bag lady cursed out Gin in front of his estranged daughter to test their love. 

Yes, it is. 

If you don’t have truth… burning, raw, sometimes uncomfortably jarring soul truth… what do you have? Flattery. I don’t need that. I already love the person I see in the mirror. And I know her well enough to know what she needs.

All we really have is this moment. Deep down, I know this so much. It doesn’t bother me. At least not anymore. Maybe at one point, it did. But it gets easier. It really does. It hurts like hell at first. I used to hold onto things so hard and doubt my instincts for so long before I started to understand that it’s okay. If you act with a pure heart, nothing good and meant for you will leave you forever. All of life is already a part of you, anyway. 

Life is all about letting go. Only in letting go do the things that matter really come back to us. And that, to me, is what poetry is all about. Letting go of the caterpillars, and seeing what comes back to me as a butterfly. Sometimes I am hurting so much about something, I feel so indignant and wounded… and all I have to do is close my eyes and open them to realize… it’s nothing. It’s just life. Let it go… peacefully, indescribably, just in your heart … and watch what happens. I wait for the boomerangs. It’s a pastime by now. 

Happily ever after is just a station. As soon as I become too content, I realize I’ve created a prison of expectation and inertia. And in prison, I write poetry… or maybe poetry to me is my way of understanding what prisons I’ve made for msyelf. I’ve taken the things and people I love most, and made them into tools for my own security. In doing so, I’ve made cages for them, too. And yet these cages are what makes society run. They’re what we all want. 
And yet the irony to me is that there is one thing in life that is more sacred than any treasure, spiritual or material, in the world to me: true friendship. 

What is a friendship? It’s two people giving each other permission to be fully themselves around each other. And enjoying those selves without reservations or self-censure. And what is a relationship? Maybe it starts out as a true friendship, but often, it becomes exactly the opposite of that. A relationship consists of two people trying to meet each other’s needs and fulfill each other’s ideals… sexually, emotionally, spiritually, romantically. And because of that, there is something about the transitions from pure friendships into love makes me mourn internally at a certain point… the point where you know there’s no turning back the tide of hopes, fears and insecurities that are starting to make themselves comfortable in their new bed. Just as a beautiful vacation spot can suddenly seem less idyllic if you have to start looking for a job and an apartment there. It might have been great to lay on the beach and enjoy the sea air, but now you’re expecting to be fed and housed here. Suddenly, there are expectations. Needs. Laws to be followed. What was once a poem becomes the mission statement of a joint business venture.

There is a part of me that is always wild. And that part of me desperately needs purity. I love the moment when something beautiful is fresh, real and immediate. I don’t like when it starts to feel ritualistic, expected. I am constantly seeking this freshness. Poetry is a way I coax freshness out of everything. As long as that channel is wide open, I know that everything else in my life is going to go OK, even when the world is falling apart around me. 
Poetry is a knife, for me. It is sharp and it sometimes hurts. And right now I’m realizing: I’m holding onto picture-perfect. To happily-ever-after. I like the way my cake looks. The frosting is so pretty, I’m afraid to cut its flowery surface. I’m afraid of what darkness I might find inside. And that isn’t allowing me to create. 

Happily ever after is just a station. As soon as I become too content, I realize I’ve created a prison of expectation and inertia. And in prison, I write poetry… or maybe poetry to me is my way of understanding what prisons I’ve made for myself.

In order to appreciate what is real, I need to distance myself from my attachments a bit in my mind. I need to let go, and befriend the shadows again. To pick up the knife and start cutting. To embrace the dangerous beauty of truth, which contains both shadows and light. Poetry to me is not just about odes and praises. It’s a science. Sometimes it’s simply holding a magnifying glass up to an eyeball or an anthill and showing something grotesque. 

And in that unflinchingly critical mirror, you have something exquisitely beautiful… even when it is reflects things that disturb and shake us from tranquility. It’s as much about darkness as it is about light. 

© Sarah Noack 2009

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Some people call the idea of developing your ideal life, “Co-Creation.” Others call it “Conscious Manifestation.” And others still call it following the “Laws of Attraction.”

I call it hunting.

I don’t eat meat. I’m a wimp at sports and I’d die in military bootcamp. I am not a very competitive person. The idea that my friends or neighbors are doing something doesn’t usually motivate me to try to imitate or outdo them. On the contrary, I might try to do the opposite. Even in business, it’s not my iron will, my steady persistence, or the firmness of my spinal column that lends me a helping hand if I’m to be successful at anything.

It’s my ability to stalk prey.

If you ever watch a cat, they will be content to watch something for a long time with intense focus before they leap just at the right moment. That’s how I am. I am basically, fundamentally lazy and hedonistic… but obsessive. In spurts. I don’t like to work hard unless I’m doing something I want to do… until I don’t want to do it anymore. But if I’ve decided I want something, I always get it… unless there is some very big, important reason that I shouldn’t have it. Which usually becomes crystal clear in retrospect.

Hunting for me is intimately tied in with the concepts of Laws of Attraction and Conscious Manifestation and all that new-age stuff. Only, to me, “hunting” is just is a lot more fun, accurate and productive way for me to phrase it, as it applies to my own life. And really, it IS a sport. I’m not out there working all that hard for what I want in life, most of the time. I’m also not just sitting around waving pictures of what I want in front of my head and saying “I hope.” OK, maybe I do sometimes. But then I straighten up. That’s not what I’m about. I’m a hunter of possibilities.

Hunting is deciding, assessing, waiting, and acting at just the right moment. Hunting is scheduling work in a city you want to live and just watching, pacing in your car, examining, and saying “This is MINE. Just not yet.” Hunting is watching a group of children that just seems to shine with meaningful light, and seeing your daughter there holding the chain of hands on a lively street… and stopping the caregivers to ask the information of the preschool they are working for. Hunting is looking around, and saying “That’s mine,” when you see those things that glow like that, that are meant for you and the life you are meant to live.

Hunting is not taking no for an answer when you know the answer is already yes, but the others just haven’t realized it yet. Hunting is knowing your needs and your hungers and your aversions, and honoring them by going out in the bush and pouncing on what you need, without squeamishness or second thoughts. Hunting is falling out of a window, landing on two feet and licking your paw, and going on your way as if nothing had happened. Hunting is declaring yourself the owner of your dreams, and doing what is needed to see them through. Hunting is knowing you are the boss of yourself and that you are worth it… worth as much as you want yourself to be and give and explore. Hunting is letting yourself live in the infinite highway of the moment; not in the dead-end detours of expectation, hope and regret.

A hunter does not live by dogma, but by instinct and adaptation. Even a cat knows that hunting in winter and summer follow different rules, and adjusts its methods accordingly. It calculates without sentiment, and intuits its moment of attack. It doesn’t whine about how it’s missing a tail, its paws are cold, or it wants some Fancy Feast. It is unattached to the results of its actions. If it calculates that its prey is unattainable at that moment, it lets it go. It doesn’t get all hot and bothered over it, crying and writing bad poetry. It moves onto something more suitable. It flows with life.

Hunting is the art of seduction, magnified. It can be applied to seduction but it is much larger than that. It is the seduction of life. It is knowing that life itself is the lover. It is meant to love you back, to give you joy and excitement and intrigue, to be what you need it to be. It is not someone that will tell you what to do, or a child to babysit and fuss about. It is not a bill collector to nag you about your debts and lacks, or a preacher to tell you you’re sinful and bad. Unless you want that, of course. But then you give up your potency, your right to hunt.

If you move in flow with life, you will know the exact moment to make changes in your life, to leap on an opportunity, to make a pass at that person you’ve been thinking about, or to quit your day job to write the Great American Novel. You won’t get so bummed out about things because you’ll know that if you are acting as life’s lover, if you are hunting and attracting ACTIVELY by strategy, patience, timing and persuasion… then everything will happen for you the way it is supposed to.

You will still experience pain, but it will be the pain of loving, not the pain of being afraid to love.

© Sarah Noack 2006

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It’s 3am, and I’m up reading a well-known poetry industry periodical. I used to read it all the time, spend my hard-earned money on contests so people in high places could read my poems and stories, and then send them back without a word in the self-addressed stamped envelopes I provided.

I could never understand that. I mean, it was the 90’s then. People had email. Why this archaic hoo-ha about SASES… for poetry and short stories? What do they think I want to do with the damn thing? I have it backed up in a few places, I have paper copies printed out in my files—why do I need it back? To prove they haven’t plagiarized? To save them the trouble of throwing it into the paper shredder? To prove they actually read it?

Nah, I don’t think it’s any of that. I really just think they do it to create an Aura of Elitism.

This “Aura of Elitism” that so many white, liberal, silver spoon-fed writers seem to inhale like whatever gas Dennis Hopper was sniffing in Blue Velvet, is why I disappointed all my hopeful high school mentors and decided to study commercial art in college. I didn’t want this Aura of Elitism. I just want to get paid. I had watched my mother struggle to support my sister and myself after a difficult divorce, and I didn’t want to go that route. I wanted a steady, reasonably fun and creative day job with a good paycheck. One that would ultimately allow me to take some time off when I needed to write, of course.

Lots of people thought I was selling out. Maybe I was. But I was just so sick of this “aura of elitism” thing that so many writers get high off of. I went to young writer’s conferences all through high school. I got awards and honors. I worked on the school paper and, instead of hanging out and dating like other kids were doing, I stayed home like a geek and wrote until after midnight every night, just as I am doing now. I was, am, and always will be a completely pathological, obsessed, uber-nerd writer. Maybe this is why I have never been terribly ambitious about it. I have nothing to prove to myself. I write for me first… I am my favorite writer, and my only really major influence has always been my own inner voice. If this makes me sound like an insular, self-congratulatory prick, then so be it. As much as I love reading so many other writers, when I read my own writing, it’s like coming home. When I put a poem or story away for months, I can come back to it later with the dual eyes of critic and enjoyer. I don’t know if other writers can do this, but I love it. I love being able to step away from my writing like that and just taste it.

In the classifieds of this well-known periodical, a lot of writer’s retreats and workshops are advertised. I read about acres of rolling Vermont hills, horseback riding, your own private studio with exposed-beam ceilings. You never see writer’s retreats in, say, vacant warehouses in Detroit where the wall dividers are made of sheetrock. You never see daycare advertised. You never see offers of financial aid. Obviously, those who seek out such writerly solitude have cash to spend. They demand the best. And somehow, they all managed to avoid breeding!

I used to laugh because I just couldn’t imagine needing a retreat to write. I would be bored out of my skull. I can’t write without noise, chaos and surprise. I write in cafes in busy cities during rush hour, in the sauna in my gym on paper towels with naked people staring at me, even while I’m stuck in rush hour traffic on Friday evenings. I have told my child to go away and watch Barney for ten minutes so I could finish a poem when she was already late for preschool. I have written in eyeliner when I couldn’t find a pen, recorded poems on my cell phone, and texted ideas to myself when I had nothing else to write on. I have been late for work more times from writing than I have from getting some. Actually, for me, writing IS “getting some.” It’s that good to me. Why would I need to pay for some fancy, glorified resort for well-to-do artists, when I can get down and dirty anytime, anywhere?

To me, these retreats remind me of testosterone-deficient women who need hours of cuddling, praise and reassurance by candlelight in a hotel with four-poster beds before they will warm up enough to yield to lust. And even then, it won’t be raw, sick lust… it will be something reasonably civilized, maybe a little sweaty, definitely with cellos playing and some wine and cheese being served in the next room. I don’t want wine and cheese. I don’t get my inspiration from being stuck in the forest with hermits, locked off in a safe little womb from the scariness and demands of our lives so we can finish our novel… which the world so desperately needs, of course. Come on. Does it really?

Are we really writing for the world… or for ourselves? I know my answer to this. At least I am honest. And unashamed.

I write to entertain, move and stimulate myself, and I succeed. That’s really what matters most to me, although without the stimulation of some audience participation, I get bored. There are so many good writers in the world. I have no delusions about where I fall on the scale of greatness. I know I have a good voice, because at least one person craves and relishes my work: ME. But I am one of many great voices, and certainly not even close to the best (if there were such a thing, which there is not).

I know that at times, I can even be trite, affected or rough around the edges. My strength is not in intellectual refinement and years of education, but in raw passion and instincts. I don’t have a PhD or a Master’s in anything, never completed any residencies or fellowships; I don’t even have an undergraduate degree in English. I went to art school. I was a commercial artist in the financial industry for years and now I work as a salesperson in the natural health industry.

But I don’t pretend to be what I’m not. I am just someone who loves, more than anything on earth, to write. I’ve never had anyone holding my hand and validating my existence as a writer. I don’t go to writer’s workshops and conferences where you get to drink wine and ride ponies when writer’s block hits. I got so frustrated sometimes in college literature classes; I hated writing essays that picked apart poems and books I really just wanted to dive into and devour in peace. I don’t want to read the label on the honey jar and discuss what causes its sweetness. I just want to stick my finger in the jar and lick it up. And that is also the way I write. I don’t think much about what I am doing, and I certainly don’t plan it. It comes as naturally to me as any raw sensory pleasure. I cannot conceive of going a day without writing, so I don’t structure it into my days. On the contrary—I schedule my life around the challenge of restricting my verbal output. If I don’t do this, my daughter won’t get fed, and the laundry won’t get folded.

Well, sometimes my daughter does eat Spaghetti-O’s for dinner. And my laundry often doesn’t get folded, in fact. I can only hope that by teaching her the value of her imagination, I am giving her a gift that goes beyond a perfectly tidy house and meal planning that occasionally falls short of USDA guidelines.

Writing is not a monastery to me that I can retreat to when the demands of my life threaten its sanctity. Writing is as urgent to me as eating, drinking, making love, praying, breathing. It’s a part of my soul.  And no matter what anyone does to take it away from me, I will find some way to release the pressure. Even if, like a friend once joked (after watching Quills), I have to write poems in my own blood.

It’s 4am now. With everything I had to do today in my single-mom, almost completely support-less existence, I just wrote an article. I am sitting upon a beat-up La-Z-Boy recliner with my laptop poised on my knees, one eye closed because I can’t keep two open anymore. I am going to get three hours of sleep tonight, but since I can’t live without this, I’ve trained my body to meet the needs of my restless mind. Before bed, I did my ironing, hemmed several pants, and cooked a Mediterranean-themed pasta dish. And my daughter not only read stories, but had a guided visualization—a virtual trip to a tropical island, where she swum with dolphins and picked coconuts—before bed. There are always things to do. There are always fires to extinguish. But when your need to do something is so intense that it goes beyond even love, you will find some way to do it, even in the midst of all that.

I don’t fault anyone if they want to go to a retreat in the country to get away, ride some horses, listen to some cello music and enjoy wine and cheese while focusing on their writing. But as for me, I don’t need a romantic vacation to get in the mood. Even if I could afford to pay for one of these glorified resorts, I wouldn’t. I might stay in a busy city somewhere, and have some random, fun part-time day job to break up the intensity of focus that writing can entail. I definitely would not want to be away from my daughter—although the idea of her going to summer camp someday, does sound nice. I need those breaks in focus, the balance of input and output. I need to observe and taste life in all its chaos in order to write well.

I don’t know what my future as a writer will be. One thing, however, has become clear to me. I cannot allow myself to be defined by any typical standards of success as a poet. I could care less if I win awards, get good reviews, get a teaching residency at a college in some quaint historic town where I can protect myself from the coarseness of the human race. I could care less if I get a pat on the back from some famous poet at a wine and cheese reception. And I don’t care if I’m considered High Art. I care only that I love what I do, that I love to read other writing that turns me on, and that I am unearthing a secret vocabulary that, however small and arcane, is leaving its indelible footprint on the mind of the universe.

The reason I went into commercial art was precisely why I currently disdain the poetry “industry.” (I call it an industry, even though its currency is not money, but social status—which I find infinitely more alienating to my tastes). I wanted to feed the masses with my art. I wanted to design cereal boxes, not be hung in a museum or some rich patron’s gated home. The poetry industry is that rich patron’s gated home. It’s cliquey, it’s insular, it’s precious. Even more so than the world of modern art. So basically, I don’t feel a burning urge to be accepted in it. I can reject this “industry” of elitism, while still honoring and adoring the poets whose work give me a hard-on.

The underground world of poetry slams is, to me, just as competitive and cliquey. Talent is less valued than shock value, gimmicks and stage presence. It’s reverse elitism: who can be more crass and nihilistic? Who has struggled more, done more drugs, been more down and out? I am a quiet reader, and a bit of a nerd. I giggle nervously when faced with large audiences. And overall, I don’t really like to make a huge show of my work. I like to read my poems aloud, but if they don’t come to life by themselves on the page, I don’t consider them successful.

There are a few poets out there whom I think are truly redefining what poetry means. Their work is just brand new, raw, fresh—the kind of stuff that gives me goosebumps. There are poets out there who ride the subways, work as cashiers, do volunteer work instead of being sequestered in writerly solitude. I feel like these are the truly alive writers. They don’t need prizes and tenured positions at prestigious universities to prove their worth. There are good poets everywhere, including in the obvious places. But look around for the hidden talents. I get such pleasure in finding them. Never doubt someone’s greatness simply because they haven’t been discovered.

I don’t know how I would define my idea of success as a writer, but I do know one thing: it won’t be anything typical. When I think about my goals as a poet, one thing comes to mind above everything else—and it doesn’t just involve me. I want poetry to have a renaissance. I want it to be cool again, not just some erudite skill for the literati to savor among themselves in private. I seriously believe that poetry changes the world, changes society, forms the fabric of our thoughts—because it shapes language and thus causes the evolution of thought. It is like the framework from which we drape clichés, memes and cultural consciousness. I want poets to be the rock stars of the next era. Not because I want fame, riches or glittery pants (although that would be kind of cool), but because I want poets to finally make a living doing their job.

But at the same time, I don’t. There is a part of me that is doing this STRICTLY for love. STRICTLY as a gift. Often I feel more like I am creating a scripture, a channeling from angelic realms, a body of mysticism… not a commodity I want to sell or gain any personal prestige from. In reality, people will pay for a book or a work of art, but maybe they aren’t going to pay for poetry unless it comes along with a cereal box prize because IT IS mystical. IT IS a gift, it’s the most rarefied and pure of all creative endeavors. Poetry can so easily be obtained for free, and maybe IT SHOULD BE. Free and openly offered as graffiti and religion. Is this radical? Yes. No matter where I stand on the fence about this, someone’s going to hate me. And right now, I don’t stand anywhere except knowing that it’s time poetry takes itself really seriously. And starts doing its job: whittling collective consciousness through the alchemy of words.

This may involve some reshaping of our definitions of poetry. Is a lyricist a poet? A rapper? Is someone who writes ad jingles or Christmas cards a poet, because they can throw around meter and sound? And what about poetry that combines different sensory channels: poetry to music? Poetry written into murals? Poetry baked into cakes or carved into buildings? Should poetry be seen and not heard, or heard and not seen? Should it be acted out? Spoken in multiple voices, in three-part harmony?

If my poetry receives even an iota of recognition in this lifetime, I don’t want it to happen for its own sake. I want it to happen because a bunch of writer friends and I have banded up and started a movement that changes the way we look at words, feelings, even community and society. I want this change to be smelled, tasted, heard on the streets, felt in the rumbles of subways and thunder. I don’t even mind if it gets watered down to the masses—to me, that is a sign of real success. There are always going to be the Brian Enos of the world, and the Mobys: those who innovate, and those who emulate. I know that I am a little of both. I know my poetry is very accessible, which can be a good and a bad thing. There’s a fine line between accessibility and pandering to the masses. I am not one of the elite, although I can fake it nervously at wine and cheese parties sometimes. I am really more of the street, although I don’t quite fit in there, either.

I am really just someone who is sickeningly obsessed with writing, and can feel a storm coming on the horizon. I am ready for it, but this is going to be a job for more than one.

© Sarah Noack 2008

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