There is a kind of humility in poetry today that,
like Jim Jarmusch, you can’t help admiring —
A willing withdrawal from any pretension
to the grandiose effects still sought by the other arts.
Including (especially) the movies.
Sure it would be nice to be as culturally big
as Byron or Pushkin were in their day.
Or even Tennyson or T.S. Eliot in theirs.
Or Spielberg or Scorsese in the movies.
But that sort of thing now seems, somehow,
like bad manners.
A rich and successful poet looks to us like
a contradiction in terms.
Was it Auden — the last really successful poet —
Who taught us that failure was baked in the cake?
“Poetry makes nothing happen,” he said. Or if it does,
It is quick to disavow the mistake.
He and Eliot queered the pitch for the rest of us —
Sent us back to our workmen’s cottages,
Our bored “creative” students
Or our bus routes in Paterson,
Where William Carlos Williams’s
long-ago delicious plums
Now stand iconically, for the matter
of the true poet,
Which does not matter,
Though we all pretend that it, somehow,

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