Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Via Verse Immortality

An occasional motivation for writing is the notion that poetry may serve as a "ticket to immortality" of sorts. I had a conversation on this with Jessica Schneider a couple weeks ago:


Thanks for the compliment. It really helps that I got criticism from my 7th grade teacher. That pulled me out of Wonderland nice and early; although it was very lenient criticism mixed with friendly praise, it was enough of a push to cause meaningful motion. From there it's your basic improvement story; read, write, rewrite.

Also, a somewhat related note (with a poem, if you don't mind): despite the "noble" pursuits of contributing to art and gaining a sense of achievement, I sometimes catch myself considering poetry as a possible ticket to remembrance centuries from now. How common do you think the latter motivation is?


To Know What For

To see the world in poetry,
To border immortality
With written gilt that stays or fades,
Dependent on its quality.

To dream one's verse is evident
To scholars of a long descent
That wholly fills the centuries
As great and truly permanent.

To write with vivid liveliness,
To pen in ardour, coalesce
From dull and sparing ink and scroll
A splendor wrought with rare largesse.

To know one's immortality
Is truly great and permanent
Creates an inner liveliness
That scholars of a late descent
Will chronicle with fine largesse.
A monument of poetry
That manages to coalesce
Consistency with quality;
Transcendency is evident.

...To see one's dreams: a great delight,
For now I know for what to write.

By Neil Hester


...Take Care,

Now, the reply:

Hey Neil-

I think the whole ticket into immortality is a valid one. I admit that I've thought about it, mostly when I was in my early 20's, but now that I've gotten a little older, I try not to focus on it as much within my daily life. Yes, that itch is still there, however not the sum of what I think about each day. An artist has a tough job in that he or she also has to be a person too, and live a life that involves the same tasks as non-artists. I think from the pov of an artist, to strive to have your work remembered is always a good thing- to think about the topics you write about as well as the way they're expressed and wonder how that will affect the thoughts of generations from now. But I also have come to believe it's unhealthy to only focus on that as a person. Just be sure to enjoy being 16, and then 18, and then 21. Don't let the immortality thing get in the way with having a fulfilling youth. I admit that there have been times when my frustration has caused me not to enjoy parts of when I was younger, like during my mid-20's but I'm trying to make up for that now, in a way.

I remember showing some poems to my high school English teacher when I was 16 and she gave me praise, mostly I think because most 16 year olds wrote about breaking up with their boyfriends/girlfriends or hating the world. The poems themselves weren't anything I'd publish now, but they showed potential. I was trying to imitate Emily Dickinson, mostly. But I have found that the 2 poets who have written the best juvenilia were Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath. Plath was probably the better of the two, and while her juvenile poems didn't soar into immortality the way her mature work does, they were more structured and polished than anything I'd ever written at that age. I didn't write a poem worth really publishing till I was 22. That "Wild Poppies" poem is my first 'real' poem I wrote. There were some others that were good, but that was my first mature one that I'd include in a collection today. The handful of others from my youth that were decent I'd rank as juvenilia, but wouldn't make it into my mature work. For example, the poem you have on Cosmoetica is far more mature than anything I'd ever written at 16 or even 21, so writers start to mature at different times. I know that Dan says he didn't have anything worth crap till he was 28, so it just depends. But as long as you keep at it and not get distracted or too depressed by the bad poetry getting published (talk about no immortality there) then your work will grow. And who knows, it could take you places you never thought you'd go to, like me- I had no idea I'd have an interest in writing fiction. That came when I was 26 and the poetry was sort of at a dead end, but I still hope to return to it someday, but in the mean time, some money off book sales would be nice.



The thought of gaining immortal (or at least, uh, macromortal?) status in literature probably pops up in any serious writer's mind at some point in their lives, though I'm guessing it bothers some more than others. Mine and Jessica's are very similar; the idea is more of an itch than anything. For now, I mostly just write when I feel like it (though I might try to set myself to "x" number of poems to write during off weeks and summer months), so my childhood is definitely intact ^^


LAEvaside: Firstly, I made it to 1000 hits. Go me? Also, the "poem within a quote" is a first for this blog: clever, eh? [/laevaside]


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