Guest Post: The Guest Poet by Kevin Casey

We rarely find anyone who can say he has lived a happy life, and who, content with his life, can retire from the world like a satisfied guest. — Horace

The bathroom remodel is coming along fine, and thanks for asking. But it’s taken up most of my summer, and no small amount of money, as well. Thankfully, the children are old enough to help mow the lawn (this and fetching their mother the occasional beer is why we had them to begin with, so there’s one small victory for planning ahead), but there’s also the day job and its substantial commute, the soccer games and recitals—oh, and writing.

And it’s the scheduling challenges of a busy life (I tell myself) that absolves me from the responsibility of maintaining a blog. I understand that a blog can help a writer develop a greater sense of discipline, cultivate a larger audience base, draw out ideas to later incorporate into verse, but—of all the journal-like endeavors I’ve begun over the years—only my Web site posts persist, and these are limited to acceptance and publication notices. Keeping up a blog is a lot of damn work, and there are only so many hours in a day.

However, the occasional guest blog post (like this one) is something I think I could swing.

In fact, I would like to find a way to extend this and become a guest poet: someone who might—upon the request of a steady flow of impatient publishers—scratch out a few lines of brilliance for immediate publication. I wouldn’t even mind keeping the day job. I could come up with a quick stanza or two in my jacket and tie during lunch, like Wallace Stevens or Ted Kooser. No busy work, no rejections—just a small trickle of validation to help justify getting out of bed each morning.

But even as I write this, I can hear my own voice telling several decades’ worth of first-year students that writing is about process as least as much as it is about product. And with poetry, this is an easy precept to believe, since—with poetry—a “product” (poem or collection of poems) of even world-class quality and/or success will result in a nearly negligible amount of fame and fortune. Financially, there is little money to be made in poetry, of course. And, in terms of fame, a “famous poet” is at about the same relative celebrity level as a local TV meteorologist. With poetry (at least), there’s no great, external impetus to try to “hit it big.”

So, if we’re focusing on the process of writing instead of the product, aiming to be a “guest poet” would only ensure a degree of failure: to be a guest host, guest editor, guest lecturer or guest anything suggests that—for most of your time—you are none of those things. And while I never refer to myself (publicly or in my own mind) as a “poet,” I do realize that—unless I wake up and start poeting, poet throughout the day, and go to sleep poeting—I should probably pick up a guitar or paintbrush or hammer, because either I’m not, in fact, a poet/writer, or at least I’m not a very good one.

In the end, I think the only type of guest you can be as a creative person is the variety that Horace describes in the epigraph above: a guest in our own life—born into this strange and beautiful world as an unintended tourist, mingling with the natives, experiencing as much local color as you can, trying not to begrudge the rainy days that keep you inside, and documenting your brief furlough here, until the winter comes, and your stay is over, and it’s time to settle up and go home.

 

Kevin CaseyKevin Casey’s work has appeared recently in Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Gulf Stream, Chiron Review, and other publications. His chapbook The wind considers everything was published by Flutter Press last year, the full-length collection And Waking… was published this year by Bottom Dog Press, and Red Dashboard will publish the chapbook For the Sake of the Sun later this year. For more, visit andwaking.com.

Kevin’s poetry is in Black Fox Issue 13.

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