Lowly Life

A poem inspired, in part, by listening to interviews with Bob Dylan mixed with reflections on the poetry of James Joyce. Mostly this poem is written as a weird sort of encouragement for other writers. We all go through periods of doubt about what others will think, but, in the end, the only person that can be responsible for what is written is the writer. The buck stops with the person holding the pen, whether he be a poet, novelist or critic. The thoughts of others may help or inspire but writing to please just doesn’t work for some of us.

A Lowly Life

He led a lowly life, he said

This then-young man tried to make his name

Through works diverse, and tasks mundane

In peaceful places where he could take the time

To consider what was written or read

Or how some text might scan or rhyme

And what words were concealed in which writer’s head

The establishment thought his efforts worthwhile

When he trod their well-worn literary path

They would agree with him and joke and laugh

The methods he used were deemed correct

The subtle symbolism made them smile

Aimed at an audience serious and select

Who could understand both subject and style

But all desires to do something new

Were greeted with requests to toe the line

Suggesting that, though his art was fine

Any search for fame could create ill will

And whatever his entourage might do

Those that by his side stood still

Though they were faithful, they were far too few

He felt his commitment had been totally abused

By the system that established the rules of the game

Criticism, once wise, only sought now to blame

But although he refused to write to please

He had never been by his detractors accused

Of seeking to live a life of ease

His lack of concern made his critics confused

Then he left to join a rebellious band

For whom the avant-garde was normal

Whose approach to young artists was far less formal

What he could create with paper and pen

Sent a message to youth throughout the land

Who would glance to the past every now and then

But would not be bullied by the wise and grand

So settled was he with children and wife

That his work became popular and appealing

Readers perceived a more fatherhood feeling

Thus, he could finally, truly attempt

To shuffle off the coil of artistic strife

Which he began to treat with a certain contempt

As he left behind his lowly life

There is no moral to this tawdry tale

Except that hidden within myth and mystery

All logic is lost in young artists’ history

If writers wish to create their own space

But need society’s acceptance in order to prevail

Submission to ambition is their saving grace

And a lowly life is the best way to fail