This is part an essay I wrote for The Tampa Review titled, “Poems and the Psyche: The Threat of Making Art, One Writer’s Journey.” You can see the full series here.
Before ending, (or perhaps the better word is interrupting), this ongoing discussion of voice, which began with a gift from Allen Ginsberg teaching us that to write good poems we had to write bad ones, then lead to my own journey and expanded into a theory about voice in general, it is important to perhaps restate the obvious: namely, that voice is the single most significant source of the poem and the one thing that makes it uniquely and utterly our own. It cannot be duplicated. On the other hand, technique and craft are shared. They are learned. While each of us select what works best for our poem, technique is mechanical; it is device, and therefore, it is known. But voice is unknown. It’s that door opening inside us revealing that place where our soul lives. And given our willingness and commitment to listen, to wait and record, we are rewarded with the soul’s conversation offered up in its unique language, logic, imagery and form. This is the bedrock and brilliance of the poem. This is the gift
Finally, it is this intimacy between poet and soul that not only gives us the poem and its readers, it is also our antidote for envy—this voice that is our gift, this that we may learn to love, this that makes our own art separate and original and lasting, this like no other.