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Page 41

The book gets critical raves.
People line up after each reading
to buy copies ("...and another
for my sister -- she'll love the one about..."),
invitations, success (more wine and cheese
than drugs, sex and fame, this is just poetry).

But the blank page holds new dangers,
for even success is a verdict. What can be ruled
"a fresh new voice" can become "stale and lifeless,
disappointing." And if the praise
is fulsome enough, the blank page delights
in ironic greetings: "Well, if it isn't
the great poet himself! Quick, transmute me,
make me golden."

The poet must pause then to run each idea
past the friendly critics, who now
haunt him and threaten to become him.
But unless the certainties of critics
(for or against) have blinded the poet
to the simpler presence of readers,
success makes the blank page easier
to confront and fill up with words,

not that blankness is kinder, but that
it has been replaced by transparency,
with readers on the other side, people
to talk to who always smile
and reply to the poet's hellos.
He writes among friends.

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