“The trouble with writing poetry…”

The trouble with writing poetry is that you have readers, and the trouble with readers is that you have to listen to them after they have spent their time reading you. Mine, unless they are young poets or teachers of English, usually say one of three things. If they are relatives, they ask me why I choose such sordid downhill subjects. If they are strangers who want to be cordial yet dislike what they have read of me, they admit that some of the things I have published are over their heads. If they are not sure that they want to be cordial, they overemphasize that they are not intellectuals. They confess that all they can do is run a brokerage, make money, have five children, build a house from their own plans, and run, say, the Boston Museum of Natural Science as a hobby. The final blow is to ask me in a harsh, clear, incredulously polite voice about the Pulitzer Prize. “You won the Nobel Prize, didn’t you? Everyone can’t do that.”

–Robert Lowell, “Art and Evil”, Collected Prose

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