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)


  1. Fame is fast becoming irrelevant. Anonymity is being rendered obsolete. We are writing "in an environment of hyperinformation, an environment, moreover, where we are all authors."*

    *Marjorie Perloff, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century, 2010.

  2. Anonymous< I've long admired your work. (ha ha ha)