Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wallace Stevens; Susan "My Emily Dickinson" Howe, Wallace Stevens

On that space for religion?  The enlightened write:  Wallace Stevens.

Poet Susan "My Emily Dickinson" Howe and Wallace Stevens scholar Joan Richardson so worship, and tonight hit the pulpit at the Philactetes Center on East 82nd. They said this and that. Read some Stevens. Preached the word.

Being a group of western civ-central white people (sigh) there was alot of talk about categories. We white people like our categories. Is it a [Stevens'd work]  poem? Can it be music? Rembrandt?  Plato, of course, was mentioned. We white people like the Greeks.

Your intrepid reporter cum slightly sarcastic Stevens lover suggested that's why many poets create collages--music on words next to doilies next to a road map superimposed on Plato.

Catallus was the Platonic dialog referenced (though I jotted Cratallus).  I didn't care about careful notes so I can't tell you which poem submits itself to Socratic questioning.

Susan "My Emily Dickinson" Howe talked about the opacity of "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour" and how one of the lines (I can't read my notes!) (I'm so tired!) has lo and behold a word she looked up in the OED. Its fourteenth meaning was a bingo and she wondered if she was "the one reader" (equalling all readers) Stevens has written about. If he chose that word for her.  He did!

Am I making sense?

Final jotted note:  Peter Quince took a bite out of himself and winced.  That's me.  Rest assured that not even exhausted Sarah Sarai can ruin Stevens.  Why?  SHE LOVES STEVENS. She also loves the feeling of rearrangement signaling new work soon to appear. Howe and Richardson are lovely, by the way.

Night night.

Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

by Wallace Stevens, a great American poet

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In the Clouds; site-specific; a first grouping of a new collection

Last night friend of mine told me he'd closed his e-mail account because he bought a new computer. T.'s belief was that e-mail was hardware-specific.

"But it's the Internet," I said.  "I could access my e-mail from a computer in Russia." Not having been to Russia, I couldn't test my assertion. But T., who I've known for almost fifteen years, also lacks quality-time spent on the rich Russian soil so we were at a stalemate.

I spend much of my work time on a computer and with the exception years teaching have done so since the mid-eighties. And when I was on unemployment  my head was living in the clouds of cyber space.

Yikes. Now I have to retrace my aha! between T.'s e-mail quandary, blogging and poetry. I saw it five minutes ago. Drat, as we used to say in junior high. 

Leading up to that aha!, instantly forgotten, I was wondering why I am less drawn to blogging these days. Work? No poetry there. There are narratives everywhere in life; ditto fiction; but despite my optimistic nature and open-minded perspective (I'm pretty fabulous), I'm not sure poetry is so equally accessible. An exception comes to mind--some James Wright (the novelist) haiku about insects, roaches. He was living in France. He brought an entirely new perspective to the art form.

Mainly, however, poets know idleness. We carve out the time or would if carving and whittling weren't such arduous tasks. We find work which has down time or summer vacations.  Like T. and his (misunderstood) problem with email, I'm wedded to the notion of time, which is a notion, a concept, an elusive frame for life.

Nothing will keep me from poetry or the joy of thinking outloud (I'm assuming my words speak their presence) here. At work, however, I'm in the clouds these days. I'm a Google document. I see this posting isn't quite cohering. Oh well.  For the record, a few hours ago I completed assembling my first go at a new collection.  I didn't think I had written enough new work, but there it is, shorter than The Future Is Happy, bound to change, but a draft of a second book.

I'll call T. later in the week to see how things are going.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wobbly Me

How's this for a title:  Wobbly Petals

Shake-a shake-a flutter. Flutttttter.

Since I didn't use a question mark you may infer what I implied. It's a good title.

Full:  Wobbly Petals: Sarah Sarai's Princess Di.

 That's from Lisa Howe's blog, Sister Arts: Gardens, Homes, Art, Community.  Earlier this week, Howe, who is a poet, professor, scholar, bon vivant, featured one of my poems, and by featured I mean created ekphrasic art. Responding to "A Bullish Run Into Chambers," published by Fringe, Howe created a lush photo essay and commentary.

That's enough from me.  Please take a look.  Again, Wobbly Petals: Sarah Sarai's Princess Di.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Smelly and creepy? Comfort is not a domino effecting hygiene. I was at the laundromat tonight.

WHY DON'T PEOPLE BATHE? I'm not talking about the shower-less, about the homeless, the disenfranchised. I'm talking about people with gainful employment who do not with any regularity lather up the lavender-scented French-milled soap. Not even the damn Ivory.

Tonight? Smelly man in the laundromat. My gender may have more flaws than a safety glass storefront window after a Chevette rams in (I cannot explain why Chevette came to mine) but, with notable and distasteful exception, we wash.

And don't be saying, but Sarah, it was a laundromat as if that were an excuse for layered on clinging noxiousness. We all have various oddly exotic outfits. I love mine and wear them to the laundromat--wrinkled mismatches I wish we could wear on formal occassions; in brief, the laundromat is not Fashion Week.

But comfort is not a domino effecting hygiene. Be ever slovenly of garb. Of body be even relatively smell-free. This laundromat guy stank. I guaranty it wasn't a one-off.  He was a type. I've worked with them.

They always have modulated voices in freakish contrast to their appearance and odor. Often their jeans droop to show hairy butt crack. Their hair is vicious, a wild animal, hating. 

They are rank. They are rank and in the laundromat. I issue a fatwah on smelly men (and the occasional woman).  Their odor near--near my fluffed variables? Euuuuuu and feh.

Monday, April 18, 2011

William Matthews, Onions, minutest whiff

I don't have too awfully much on my mind tonight. Isn't that a gift? No rancor, no hidden fears nibbling, no loneliness or regret. This too shall pass, of course, but hey, smoke 'em if you got 'em.

In fact I decided to post just now because I saw this illustration, anime, and knew there had to be a poem to accompany. While there must be a Japanese poem--how could there not be, so many little gardens, so much flavor--I am settling on a William Matthews' onion poem, droll and fine. Cultural juxtaposition never hurt anyone.

Is that true? I doubt it. Still, here's the poem. It's entitled "Karl Marx." No! It's called "Bridget Fonda on the Bridge." No!


by William Matthews

How easily happiness begins by
dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
slithers and swirls across the floor
of the sauté pan, especially if its
errant path crosses a tiny slick
of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

This could mean soup or risotto
or chutney (from the Sanskrit
chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions
go limp and then nacreous
and then what cookbooks call clear,
though if they were eyes you could see

clearly the cataracts in them.
It’s true it can make you weep
to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
from the taut ball first the brittle,
caramel-colored and decrepit
papery outside layer, the least

recent the reticent onion
wrapped around its growing body,
for there’s nothing to an onion
but skin, and it’s true you can go on
weeping as you go on in, through
the moist middle skins, the sweetest

and thickest, and you can go on
in to the core, to the bud-like,
acrid, fibrous skins densely
clustered there, stalky and in-
complete, and these are the most
pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

and rage and murmury animal
comfort that infant humans secrete.
This is the best domestic perfume.
You sit down to eat with a rumor
of onions still on your twice-washed
hands and lift to your mouth a hint

of a story about loam and usual
endurance. It’s there when you clean up
and rinse the wine glasses and make
a joke, and you leave the minutest
whiff of it on the light switch,
later, when you climb the stairs.

William Matthews, “Onions” from Selected Poems and Translations, 1969-1991, Houghton Mifflin Company.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Future? Keeps Being Happy! A new review in American Book Review

May 30, 2012 update.  The review in now available, with permission of the author, on My 3,000 Loving Arms at A Poet Who Doesn't Suck (May 30, 2012).

Being my mother's daughter, boastingshe don't come easy. I anticipate Mom will express regret over so much enforced humility when I meet up with her in Yonville, The Beyond So Great, The Mysterious Phase Next of Existence.

(And I would love to meet up with her. I miss my mother.)

Let's get back on message.  American Book Review, a print journal (print: archaic term, wiki it), published a review of my poetry collection, The Future Is Happy (BlazeVOX).

The beautifully written review begins with a beautifully written manifesto of contemporary poetics, then offers insight to the specific of my work, in light of the sardonic, tongue-in-cheek and brave manifesto.

Melissa Studdard is reviewer.  She is also a poet and fiction writer.  Pulled quote:

And so, despite what might have initially sounded like a complaint about contemporary poetry, I’m here to tell you that there is still much good poetry being written, and there are still many good collections coming out. One such collection is The Future is Happy, by Sarah Sarai, published by BlazeVox Books, a press that proclaims to publish “poetry that doesn’t suck.” In Sarai’s case, I wholeheartedly agree. It doesn’t suck at all. It is, in fact, a poetry of luminous, brave transparency, and though it would by no means be considered confessional, it lays bare the unique mechanisms of Sarai’s mind, the wild fluctuations of her pulse, skipped beats of her heart. Sarai has no qualms about mentioning weed, chili peppers, the bible and the afterlife all in the same poem, and her wacky, unique perceptions of the world spawn metaphor after metaphor, analogy after analogy of sparkling, lyrical, hilarious insight. Crossing the border is compared to crossing into the afterlife, Emily Dickinson is presented as a Jew
in hiding, and poop cleaned from a baby’s butt is likened to sin wiped away by grace. What may appear at first to be flippant always has a deeper meaning, and the mundane is frequently combined with the sacred.
More information about American Book Review at http://americanbookreview.org/issueContent.asp?id=193. The review is in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poem: Unreasonable. "These silver nets in my breast?"

From my collection, The Future Is Happy. I have made things happen in my time, but--long view--tonight is always the night.


These silver nets in my breast?
When the moon rises in my throat
I cast them over desire. It's worked.
I've said, “Tonight's the night”
and stars wove a reasonable fate.

Every fate has rotations, and each
friendship. The planets’ are simple
compared to ours, requiring
wiry equations and convincement
the party’s a hoot, or paranoia
(Venus is in the wrong house).

Oh, you want the reasonable fate.
Details, like did he kiss me, and
why didn't I follow through on
women? That door's not closed
and, yes. (With three older sisters,
I may know too much.) My net,
silver in my breast – I draw your
attention to its Arabian magic.

To the date palm so comfortable
outside the Hollywood Bowl, and
brass lamps with dulled bellies to rub,
to sorcerers who are potent before an
innocent new stammering vocabulary.
Tragedy is a shard, pottery, broken
and exhibited for its poignancy.
Life is full, holds water, cracks and
gets repaired. I've gone abstract
(again). What I need is another kiss.

Sarah Sarai, published in The Future Is Happy, BlazeVOX [books], 2009.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Return of the Chapbook Decisions, picking the right poem (and more)

This is my third-in-a-row posting on assembling a chapbook.

I had to set myself a faux deadline because though I was extended an offer of probably publication, I procrastinated, a problem. The deadline I set was last Monday. On Friday I met it head-on, was laughed at, and several hours later laughed at it as I pressed send.

Two of my last-minute decisions were contradictory. You see I had began to doubt I should include on particular poem, "Poetics of the Unemployed," which is jaunty/funny. Would it jar a reader or betray the other poems which are less funny but wonderful all the same?

I suspect I was less concerned with jarring readers than I was with assuaging the Critic, Critical Reader, the Evil Critic on my Shoulder. Judging myself as I fear others judge me, I shied away from telltale wit or cleverness. That's so Sarah, and of course Sarah is so helplessly jokey.

Jokey is, in and of itself, an issue. I suspect that was part of the problem in my all female-faculty graduate program. Heck, it's a lifelong problem. At parties in the seventies, someone might be telling me a hugely sincere and tragic story of family break-ups and terminal illness along with bedside confessions of betrayal and tragedy and I'd hear a joke starting up in another room and head for the joke.

The men would laugh at my cleverness, but the women would appear lost, or many of them would. What they lacked in speed-of-light comebacks, they made up for in skinniness and, of hair, straightness and shininess. I was lost to my own ping ponging sexuality, which didn't help.

Back to the chapbook. I cut "Poetics of the ..." and added "Unreasonable" [to be posted tomorrow] and "No End Out of Mind" from The Future Is Happy. I wanted to give more air-time. Then I thought, Why would anyone want to read poems available in previous book? Wasn't the point of getting more new work out there, getting more new work out there? So I control-z-ed my way back to my original choice, tidied up that. 

The Collected Poems of Sarah Sarai, which could include some poems from Happy, is but a twinkle in this poet's eye. Best to keep writing, which I haven't done much of this year. Look Up, Up is full of new work. Yay.

More to reveal as revelation demands.

Artwork from: http://www.artknowledgenews.com/files2009b/Marshall_Dalek.jpg painting by James Marshall ("Dalek"))

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saga of the chappers: I select a title or two

I am pulling together poems for a chapbook. Let's past tense that. I assembled a chapbook of poems.  Please reference my previous posting and stay tuned to collect the whole set on me and my chapbook.

Not only did I pull together poems as if they were rambunctious six-graders at recess but I set them in some unconscious order by which I mean I let my instincts order the poems (should "A Scarlet Moss" be the sixth poem? or with its plea for healing would be a provocative final statement?) (should I include a humorous-to-Dada poem {{{"Poetics of the Unemployed" which I mentioned here, http://my3000lovingarms.blogspot.com/2011/03/ladies-proud-possessors-of-penis-dada.html}}}, or would that be seen as a bid for irony when in fact I am not even choosing to attend the irony auction). 

I could have selected up to twenty-five or so poems but choose to keep it short, small, something to be read in a sitting. I worry my poems are intense, and if that is the case, then shorter might fit the soul's span of attention.

The title.  Always an issue. At first I was going to name it after one of the poems.  Then thought, nah, how about calling it "Moss," a shortening (duh) of "A Scarlet Moss."  Not for a second am I saying that poem is my favorite (or isn't). It simply became pivotal in the moment.

But that title didn't feel right. While walking about Manhattan, I tried to remember how many poems I'd included and guessed (rightly, wrongly, I'm not sure) that I'd lassoed thirteen. Baker's dozen-type ideas came to me, the final being, We Use Real Butter.

For about fourteen hours, We Use Real Butter was the title of my prospective chapper. A last-minute save (Oh Hail Mary) as I approached the end zone was in a different direction. Still toward completion but not silliness.  And it also came with risks.

Look Up, Up is the current title. The possibility of that title triggering thoughts of the delightful animation Up are okay with me. The risk, however, is those words are a line in one poem, "Our Pointillist Galaxy." That puts much stress or emphasis or burden on a single line.

Around 5 p.m. yesterday I emailed the chappers (Look Up, Up) to its prospective publisher.  As they say in Imagination's coven, more will be revealed.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dark Night of the Unwritten Poem; I select poems for a chappers; would repent but there is no repentance

Sometime last week I felt poetry's preemptive joy, glowworm and firefly in a soft mellowing and I was going to write a few poems. I was sure of it.

Then I didn't. I had my weekend, went to a friend's reading, dealt with computer of the lap issues, drank decaf coffee with extra caffeine, stumbled through Sunday and then unto me the Lord presented Monday, so I said, Good-bye glow.

It's a sad thing to be conscious of, the trammeling over the soul by means of excuses. 

Some jobs create a little space now and then for a draft of a poem. Not this one. I'm down with working at work--no argument from me. They, the man, the boss are paying me and they'll get their money's worth, and then there are the bills and, well, you know that cycle of pay and pay more is more certain than the cycle of seasons, and with nary a crocus or red maple leaf for comfort.

Last night after I collapsed for a sufficient amount of post-work time, I did cut and paste already written poems for a chapbook that just might be published.  I'd been mentally assembling poems for a small grant app and for reasons above (work and winter spring summer fall in checkbook form) missed the deadline.

They weren't the poems I'd first considered for this chappers, but I think they are the right choice.  Not the convenient one, but the best representation of glow and worm and Sarah Sarai in April 2011. When I get feedback from the publisher I'll tell you, share the process (as it were) and maybe in doing so offer penance to my still-lurking spirit. And please know that there is no, Well, maybe it was for the best, when a writer ignores her strong message that art wants out.

It's the bad thing to do. Don't do it. Write. You can write crap, that's not the issue, but write when the spirits haunt you. Okay?

***The ideogram is supposed to mean Soul Killer or something.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Good Catch, Jonathan Morse on Oppen, Brady and ground combat

{Frank Stella}
In the world of copyediting/proofreading, it's a "good catch." You know. When a copyeditor (or art director or client or or) see a glaring mistake in punctuation, grammar or even spelling we all missed, round after round.

Most often, at least in my experience, the copyeditor spots mistakes, typos, art for a different product, first round and that's that.  She may also, however point out an awkward or ambivalent construction and the writer, ad exec. or client will stet it. She's learned to live with it and most everything else. She's learned to trample her own instincts. It is what it is. She is a cog in so many wheels.

But sometimes, final round, someone will say, Hey, isn't Kit-Cat spelled with Kit-Kat? That kind of stupid mistake everyone has missed for weeks. THAT's a good catch.

Another, more penetrating catch is what Jonathan Morse demonstrated in his blog posting War Wardrobes, on Oppen (the poet) and Brady (the Civil War photographer). (And Eliot Weinberger, essayist and the like.)  Morse begins his posting:

Visualize these words crawling up the screen while percussion and low strings fill the darkened room with martial sound.

Oppen . . . had fought and had been seriously wounded as an infantryman in World War II, perhaps the only enduring American poet to participate in ground combat since the Civil War.

And dissects "to participate in ground combat since the Civil War" as you might, Sarah Sarai is the only poet to be writing in her bed when she should be bathing and rushing to work. As Morse dissects Weinberger's very specific observation he writes,
It's both true and well known, for instance, that Kurt Vonnegut and J. D. Salinger were emotionally scarred for life by their experience as infantrymen in World War II, but neither Vonnegut nor Salinger was a poet.
It's true too that the poets John Ciardi, James Dickey, and Howard Nemerov flew combat missions and the poet Frank O'Hara served on a destroyer that earned sixteen battle stars, but that wasn't ground combat.
Morse next makes a poem of Oppen and and Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. It is a poem found and constructed in Morse's mind.

I observe that Sarah Sarai is the only poet in her apartment about to bathe and race to work. Read Morse's posting.
Again: http://jonathan-morse.blogspot.com/2011/04/war-wardrobes.html

Monday, April 4, 2011

Harryette Mullen, poet, new to me, I like her

Found this. New to me. The picture is absurd but I can't find an appropriate one and better a goddess than a tennis shoe (or not) (not sure).

The Buffalo Sound page has extensive linkage on Harryette Mullen, including an interview by Barbara Deming.

This is a real-time posting. I am including a 2nd photo, this of a living goddess insofar as all poets of the female vernacular are goddesses.

More real time: I got onto all this by googling poems and fashion.  Well.  However I reach a good poem I reach it.

Black Nikes

We need quarters like King Tut needed a boat. A slave could row him to heaven from his crypt in Egypt full of loot. We've lived quietly among the stars, knowing money isn't what matters. We only bring enough to tip the shuttle driver when we hitch a ride aboard a trailblazer of light. This comet could scour the planet. Make it sparkle like a fresh toilet swirling with blue. Or only come close enough to brush a few lost souls. Time is rotting as our bodies wait for now I lay me down to earth. Noiseless patient spiders paid with dirt when what we want is star dust. If nature abhors an expensive appliance, why does the planet suck ozone? This is a big ticket item, a thickety ride. Please page our home and visit our sigh on the wide world’s ebb. Just point and cluck at our new persuasion shoes. We’re opening the gate that opens our containers for recycling. Time to throw down and take off on our launch. This flight will nail our proof of pudding. The thrill of victory is, we’re exiting earth. We're leaving all this dirt.

Black Nikes, courtesy of Poets.org/ Originally published in Santa Monica Review, fall 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Harryette Mullen. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Our Wide Whorl: decaf v. coffee; a friend reads; take art where you find it

A friend of mine is writing a sci fi thriller. She read from its in-process pages yesterday, and to promote her reading did-up flyers, as we do in the age of computers.

And so I realized that even blood spatter patterns are there to be had on Google images. Never occurred to me. Much has not occurred to me and I am not dissatisfied with that fact. The blood spatter images are kind of neat in their abstract airy-ness, however.  I'm not sure if what I saw in my perusal of the flickering pages was the real thing (blood, spattered) or artistic representations.

I believe what you see here is on the artistic side of Dexter, as in representational. Does he, Dexter, blood spatter analyst for the Miami P.D. in a show conveniently named Dexter, express interest in the physics (physics, right?) of spewing red?

My friend's reading was good. Later we all went to dinner where I am pretty sure the waitress gave me coffee instead of decaf, but, hey, I am writing this blog at 2:30 a.m. so when I wake tomorrow I'll have the rest of whatever remains of the day to consider God's whorls.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Poetry Q&As: in the entourage of art

Being but a humble entity in the world of poetry (or a brazen nonentity, yes, that might be the case) I have participated in only one Q&A after a reading. By which I mean I was to be the "A" part of the equation and the audience was the "Q."

This "A"-time followed a reading of three poets. We also delivered manifestos on poetry and queerdom, teaching poetry, living queerdom and poetry, and so on, so there was indeed room for interrogation.  Such a manifesto is meant to provoke. Incidentally, this was in February at Trace Peterson's Tendencies series at the CUNY Grad Center.

The topic here is Q&A sessions. I just saw them mentioned elsewhere, and with annoyance, the idea being why do poems read at poetry-only poetry readings need further explanation?

They don't.  The occasional Q&A can be interesting and if there is promise of sparkling water, wine, good cookies, perhaps a crudity or two, then more than tolerable.  Poetry, however, needs not be explained. A poem can be written about or talked about. That's good, interesting. But directly after it has been presented to an audience, there should be no need to eradicate its already fleeting hover by asking the poet where she writes, or what she thinks about formal verse or MFA programs.

So why the Q&As?  I suspect they've been around forever. I don't know that, but it seems reasonable given the stick-to-it-ness of human folly.  A few responses grabbed from the air:

  • We don't like to feel.  A poem provokes nesting emotion, wakens it. Much of the world's ugliness arises out of a fear of feeling. Certainly addictions widely pervasive cloud us from our feelings, as strip mining hides from us from the troubling realities of nature in her raw beauty.
  • We like to pretend we are "in" on the poem or the poet's thoughts, life, process. We want to be part of the action. We want to be in the entourage of art. (We can do that by making art, but that's time consuming.)
  • The above two suggestions assume it is the audience that is at fault, when it may well be the organizer of the reading who worries the poems themselves won't be enough. They see the poems as a basic black dress and then accessorize it to hell with long introductions of the poets and the Q&A. (The wine and cheese are good things. Don't touch that.)

This is off the top of my head which is already off its heady rocker and you are welcome to protest or suggest more reasons the poet and not the poem is celebrated.

Thank all the powers of heaven and earth for the poem. {Pictured: where poems are born.}

Friday, April 1, 2011

"The world of fame is narrow." [Alison Lurie]. And Oprah.

It is in the nature of a poet to want to be read. Emily Dickinson did leave her poems behind, and rather neatly.  Kafka, a writer though not poet (that I know of) asked his friend Max Brod to burn his work; but did he ask a friend he thought would comply with that request?  Hmmm.

So poets (and maybe all writers) want to be read but it does not follow that every poet wants fame. I live in one of fame's epicenters (New York City) and see that tussle played out.
Because Lady Oprah, the goddess of America (I think she's great) dedicated a section of the April O, magazine to poetry, and only a few poets of course could be selected, I am seeing much lamentation on blogs, listservs, etc.

And so when, last night I read the following in Alison Lurie's memoir of her friendships James Merrill and his lover David Jackson, I thought, Yup.

James Merrill, of course, was and remains well-known as a poet and a wealthy man who helped poets. His partner/husband David Jackson was also an artist, but did not "achieve" the same sort of fame.

Indeed David needs a memoir more than Jimmy does, because so few
people know who he was or have even heard of him. Bad luck, not lack of talent, ambition, or effort was responsible for this. The world of fame is narrow: it chooses and celebrates only a few. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of gifted people remain unchosen, unknown.

Well, we all work it out how we can. Sisyphus achieved fame (as pictured above).  Yikes.

Familiar Spirits: A Memoir of James Merrill and David Jackson, Alison Lurie, 2001 (Penguin)