I woke up recently with a line from a song in my head. The song was “Cemetery Gates” by The Smiths — one of their signature jaunty-melody-with-morose-lyrics numbers. The actual meaning of the song is less important than the way my own subconscious seems to have appropriated the message upon waking. I rolled over in bed and repeated the line to Val: “Keats and Yeats are on your side.” She smiled. “You know, I think that’s true. I think they are on your side, Robert.”
What a strange and comforting thought. What would those generations of poets stretching back into antiquity think of those of us still practicing the art in the era of iPhones and micro-blogging? I think they might be proud. The prospects for wealth and recognition are certainly far greater in other disciplines, and always have been. And yet, in that moment, it occurred to me that the ghosts of poetry past might somehow be rooting for us, now more than ever, as we ply an art that must seem, to some, anachronistic.
Still, the poets of yesteryear probably had the same combination of wild inventiveness and ferocious discipline that attracts us contemporary poets to the page. Had we all met, therefore, we might have got along — and perhaps one day in the poetic afterlife, we will find, despite our factions and fracases, that we were all on the same side all along.
For those of you interested in hearing the whole song, here it is: