You will perhaps pardon me, as a nonlecturer, if I begin my second nonlecture with an almost inconceivable assertion : I was born at home.
For the benefit of those of you who can’t imagine what the word “home” implies, or what a home could possibly have been like, I should explain that the idea of home is the idea of privacy.
But again — what is privacy? You probably never heard of it.
Even supposing that (from time to time) walls exist around you, those walls are no longer walls; they are merest pseudosolidities, perpetually penetrated by the perfectly predatory collective organs of sight and sound. Any apparent somewhere which you may inhabit is always at the mercy of a ruthless and omnivorous everywhere. The notion of a house, as one single definite particular and unique place to come into, from the anywhereish and everywhereish world outside — that notion must strike you as fantastic. You have been brought up to believe that a house, or a universe, or a you, or any other object, is only seemingly solid :
really (and you are realists, whom nobody and nothing can deceive)
each seeming solidity is a collection of large holes — and, in the case of a house, the larger the holes the better; since the principal fucntion of a modern house is to admit whatever might otherwise remain outside. You haven’t the least or feeblest conception of being here, and now, and alone, and yourself. Why (you ask) should anyone want to be here, when (simply by pressing a button) anyone can be in fifty places at once? How could anyone want to be now, when anyone can go whening all over creation at the twist of a knob? What could induce anyone to desire aloneness, when billions of soi-disant dollars are mercifully squandered by a good and great government lest anyone anywhere should ever for a single instant be alone? As for being yourself — why on earth should you be yourself; when instead of being yourself you can be a hundred, or a thousand, or a hundred thousand thousand, other people? The very thought of being oneself in an epoch of interchangeable selves must appear supremely ridiculous.
Fine and dandy : but, so far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be a question of individuality. If poetry were anything — like dropping an atombomb — which anyone did, anyone could become a poet merely by doing the necessary anything; whatever that anything might or might not entail.
But (as it happens) poetry is being, not doing.
If you wish to follow, even at a distance, the poet’s calling (and here, as always, I speak from my own totally biased and entirely personal point of view) you’ve got to come out of the measurable doing universe into the immeasurable house of being. I am quite aware that, wherever our socalled civilization has slithered, there’s every reward and no punishment for unbeing. But if poetry is your goal, you’ve got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about selfstyled obligations and duties and responsibilities etcetera ad infinitum and remember only one thing only : that it’s you — nobody else — who determine your destiny and decide your fate. Nobody else can be alive for you; nor can you be alive for anybody else.
Toms can be Dicks and Dicks can be Harrys, but none of them can ever be you.
There’s the artist’s responsibility; and the most awful responsibility on earth. If you can take it, take it — and be. If you can’t, cheer up and go about other people’s business; and do (or undo) till you drop.