Josh Bolton has nice piece of velvet up for Dorothea Lasky's, Poetry is Not a Project. I think Bolton gets it right in focusing on the element of play—the heart of this wonderful little essay. ‘Essay’ as Montaigne meant the word, a try -out of an idea, playing with a thought. When I’m asked when I started writing, I stumble, fishing for how to answer. I know they mean: when did I begin to write seriously, to take it seriously, and it’s the serious part that takes me back. Not the word—but how we tend to limit it to exclude play, whimsy, playful work. Anyone who has observed children at play should understand that there is nothing in life we will ever do that is more serious.
There was a time for me when poetry become a serious pursuit—but it was a seriousness of letting go, of letting it take me where it would, not making of it a ‘project,’ why I love that little pamphlet with the blue cover… and the child embossed on the cover…playing, daydreaming. I don’t tuck it away in my bookshelf. It really have a place of its own, but without thinking about… I’ve left it always somewhere in plain sight. It drifts from my desk, to a counter top, gets covered with glitter in the tray where I keep things I use for the cover of the Poem Tree chapbook. In play—serious play—the gates of the Garden of Love, those heavy iron gates, begin to creak open, the black letters of Thou Shalt Not begin to crumble away… turn to confetti… glitter to tangle the hair of the Newt Grinches of the world.
For a child, the most serious part of play involves testing the real, learning the great skill of life—imagining the Real. So many see the importance in this, the building of walls between the one and the other, the Imaginary and the Real… they get the distinction, but not transformative act… what Blake called Energy, where Imagination reaches out, probes and tests the limits of the Real… that is, the social and mental constructions of the Real, the bricks of rules and iron laws… in a search for what they hide… for… if I’m tempted to finish that sentence, to look for an idea or metaphor that would name what that is, for what is hidden, But that would put an end to play, slam closed again the gates to the Garden of Love.