I bought a new book of poetry yesterday: Presentation Piece by Marilyn Hacker.
I had gone to the bookstore after work with a car trunk full of my old books and managed to haggle just a little with the buyer to get a credit and some cash. Marilyn's book was the first purchase against my credit.
Presentation Piece is an old book, first copyright was 1969. My copy is a Viking Press soft cover and across the front runs the announcement: 1973 Lamont Poetry Selection. Online, I learn that the book of poems won the National Book Award. It was the second book of hers to be published and it puts humility and hope into my skull. But I ultimately selected that title from all the others (five or six of Seamus Heaney, one fat volume of Lyn Lifshin, many volumes of Frost, Deborah Garrison, Robert Herrick, Burns, Eliot, others in the A-H section) because the guy had finished tallying my credit and because at that point, I saw a title ("Forage Sestina"). I want so badly to write a good sestina - one that flows like a dialogue over coffee, not spilling the coffee but indulging the fulsomeness of coffee, exploiting the caffeine and the sugar and the thick cream.
The book has lots of forms which I recognize - flipping quickly through it and not being slow with it yet - at least one villanelle and a sonnet in addition to the wonder of a sestina. It has a few poems addressed to "Alba" and I transposed those names in some screwy connection to come up with Alba Hacker, a name I've seen online, and wonder about that coincidence.
But all that's a digression to what keeps repeating: "first published in 1969." That's 35 years of writing poetry. Thirty-five years of tryng on this feeling or skill or frame and tossing it or refining it. Three decades for the writer to know her poetry. To know people in the poetry trade. To gather accomplices, one or two at the start and now maybe a bigger crowd, manageable by written letter and phone calls. Then this cyber space perimeter that draws all of us close together (like it or not). All that time to boomerang, make mistakes, to perfect.
Poetry is a contact sport. We brush against each other, gather round, hold hands, get direction and then take our individual posts on the wide field. Perhaps what I need is a captain.