I write this evening from a motel in Elkhart Indiana, the "RV and Band Instrument Capital of the World." I drove here down Interstate 80, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, & Indiana, on a couple of beautiful October days. The farmlands roll out to infinity, trailing soft earth colors. Some say Elkhart's name derives from a Potawatomi phrase for "heart of stag". The island in the middle of town - now a park - between the St. Joseph & Elkhart Rivers does seem heart-like, with the two river veins merging there.
Anyway, this is a record of a brainstorm I had, driving west on 80. I left early this morning from Mercer, PA, & turned off the radio in order to focus my mind a little. I've been on a leave of absence from work since August, hence these trips to Minneapolis (to help my parents move to a retirement place). The leave has been a blessing as far as my poetry-writing goes. But something different happened on the road today.
I don't want to be too explicit. Let's say there was a sudden sense that it's time for me to step out more as a poet. I began to foresee a new way to address my - mostly American - world. Along with the necessity of doing so. One must dive into the arena and embody the poetic telegram - dramatize it, drive it home. One must be less the shrinking violet & more like Vachel Lindsay, maybe : or Pindar, the impresario (Hart Crane once expressed a desire to be "a suitable Pindar for the dawn of the machine age"), or... Whitman.
Not every poet has or requires a "message". A poem is a dandelion, an end in itself. A poet with a theme or a message is no better - not in the slightest - than any other. The poet who has an over-arching message to convey simply has a particular inner obligation : a certain job to do.
All I want to report here, for the moment, is that today I had that realization : along with some inklings about how to proceed. Time to amp up my game.
p.s. just noticed again the photo to the right on this blog : the caption (from a very old postcard which a librarian colleague from Illinois handed to me once, about 30 years ago) reads : "Henry Thunder Winnebago, recording songs in a grove". Clearly this image dates back to the early 20th century, when teams of anthropologists fanned out across the U.S. to study the "vanishing cultures" of the Native Americans. The Winnebago of Wisconsin were near neighbors to the Potawatomi. &, of course, the Winnebago is now the trademark model RV. We are indeed on the road... but what road? (The road from Elkhart.)