Rilke’s advice is still the best for poets

2016 was a decent year for me–judging by external sources.  I managed to place thirty-eight of my poems in various journals in print and online.  For those who have taken my work, I want to simply say, thank you.

Validation?  Perhaps. I’m not going to lie. It’s great to see one of my poems in print (although I’ve been told again and again that no one reads poetry anymore).  But no matter how many times I publish, it doesn’t take away the sting of the next rejection slip.  Poets are not immune to loss aversion, which is just way of saying, we feel the loss of rejection twice as much as the gain of an acceptance.

Reiner Maria Rilke’s advice–write for yourself.  Write because you have to.  Write because, if you didn’t, you would die:

You ask whether your poems are good. You send them to publishers; you compare them with other poems; you are disturbed when certain publishers reject your attempts. Well now, since you have given me permission to advise you, I suggest that you give all that up. You are looking outward and, above all else, that you must not do now. No one can advise and help you, no one.

There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of your night, ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity.

Dramatic stuff, but applicable.  As a poet, you can’t control what happens when you send your stuff out.  Statistically, it’s likely to get rejected anyway. All you can control is whether you get your ass out of bed each day and write.

Accept it. And write anyway. Because poetry matters. At least to you.


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