following four poems (and five sonnets) are from Bruce Bennett's current
poetry manuscript, Coming Back To Light.
I took a book of poems off the shelf—
my choice was Yeats—and I began to read.
I was a college freshman, by myself,
alone and lost, and desperately in need
of guidance. How does one become a poet?
What does one need to do? I didn’t know.
Was there a secret? Who or what would show it?
There wasn’t anywhere I wouldn’t go
to learn. And there, in silence, for an hour
I read and read. The answer had come clear.
One had to train oneself to get such power.
This was no accident. It all was here.
I’d do what was required. The die was cast.
I’d found what I was looking for, at last!
My Freshman year. We just had read Camus.
The question was: What if the world should end
tomorrow morning? How would we choose to spend
our final hours? What would each one do?
Some took it as a joke. I’d drink… I’d screw…
I’d kill that bastard who messed up my friend!....
Others would pray. One said he’d seek to mend
ties with his family. Silent, I knew
exactly how I’d pass that final night.
I’d take a pen, and go somewhere alone
where I could be completely on my own
and where, immersed in silence, I would write.
How long ago. How much has happened. How
little has changed. I’d say the same thing now.
I tendered him the poem I had submitted.
He read it quickly. Judgment too was quick.
“You have no sense of rhythm.” I’d committed
the error of creating. He was sick
of students thinking they could write like Masters,
those Greats he taught and hectored them to learn.
It was his mission to stave off disasters.
To be a poet one must duly earn
the right to don that Mantle. I slunk sullen
back to my room. I hid my poem away.
But in my heart I knew I was no felon;
knew he was wrong, yet didn’t know what to say.
A lifetime later I would tell him this:
“The young are young. There’s much that you might miss.”
I thought I had to leave to be a writer;
to go to some place “special” and be free.
I’d cut my ties. My burden would be lighter.
I’d live alone, and it would just be me,
devoted, spending every waking hour
pursuing – and accomplishing – my dream.
I knew that I would come into my power.
My confidence was boundless! It didn’t seem
like I could fail. Once there, in isolation,
I spent long hours reading in my room.
The poems didn’t come. I felt the slow damnation
of those imprisoned, shackled to their gloom.
I’d hear the bustle in the streets below,
and ask myself, Why would I want to go?
I’d ask myself, Why would I
want to go?
Just one more way to ask, Why am I here?
A question I couldn’t answer. I didn’t know
how I would ever make it through the year.
I did, though. I made friends. I took excursions.
I read a lot. I got myself in line.
I loved the City and its bright diversions.
By Spring that year my attitude was fine.
But writing stayed a bust. I was mistaken
to think I needed Exile, Somewhere Far,
The Myth of Other Writers. It has taken
my life till now to recognize: We are
somehow—however much we might be wrong—
en route to where we should be all along.