If you haven't seen Why We Fight, a relatively new documentary about the American war machine, put it at the top of your Netflix queue. Watch it, and then watch Triumph of the Will, Leni Reifenstahl's classic Nazi propaganda film which documents the 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally. The juxtaposition, while overtly pedagogical, will totally creep you out. Not that you need any reminding, but you'll realize immediately how we write in the shadows of an empire.
Among other things, the films called to mind this statement Charles Wright once made. No matter how you feel about his work, the guy's gotta hell of an ear for truth. Yes, truth.
"Poetry comes, for lack of better words, from the heart (the "foul rag-and-bone-shop of the heart," as Yeats had it), and from the soul—neither a place you can put your finger on, but a place you can surely put your foot in, if you don't watch out. It is a matter of "soul making," as John Keats said. It truly is not a matter of arrangement, of performance, of presentation, or rhetorical dazzle or surprise, though all of those matters may be part of it. It is not the distractions, but the focus. It is not the undercard, but the main event. There is always an emotional half to the equation, but the other half is always craft—you have to be able to say it your way. It's the only time that two plus one makes two—language is half, technique is half, and emotion is half. An emotional value is always involved. Distortions and side events are often interesting and entertaining, but they are not the stillness and fathered attention at road's end. It's not a question of paper, or type-writers, of white space or of dark space—it's a question of what's in your life, and where you want that life to lead you. You've only got one, and you can fill it with whatever you want. You're free and American. But if it is poetry that you want, then don't look for language games, intellectual rip-offs, or rhetorical sing-alongs. It's too often been a matter of life and death to those who really cared. You've got to know, in your heart of hearts, that Keats is right, that it is about soul-making, that it does matter, and that it can make you or break you as a person. It is the main event, as I say, and ancillary to nothing. It's either Atonement or At Onement, but it is one of them."
Is it enough to be an artist and to align one's self with the powers of creation? I used to think so. I'm no longer so sure.