SPRING, IN HOURS AND MINUTES, ONCE AGAIN USHERS IN NEW LIFE … WE EMBRACE AND REFUSE NOT THE INVITATION TO DIE TO NOTHING TO BE REBORN TO ALL … THE EARTH THAWS. DIG IT. LOVE THE ‘all’ of ALL
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2013) — With spring due any minute now, we begin with one of our favorite poems on the topic, long a staple for writers and poets looking for the perfect metaphor for mankind’s eternal, embedded hope: “new life out of old.” First, allow this prologue.
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Can there be a better comparison for our quest for immortality than the return of life, each year, from the shriveled death of that which has fallen from tress or has passed away into the ground, from which it sprang? That is spring, when “the nebula of early blossoms” can still face an assault. They stand resolute, however, because they have deep, hidden knowledge. They know the snows will soon be of yesterday. They are of now.
The poem, titled “Spring,” was written by Gerard Manly Hopkins. We shall present it in a moment, and be forewarned: This will be a day without politics. Such is our power, and by fiat, so we declare.
As an undergraduate at Union College, we took one of our favorite classes of all time: “Victorian Poetry,” taught by the legendary Prof. Samson O.A. Ullman. Under Prof. Ullman’s didactic spell, we discovered the enthralling word mastery of Tennyson, Browning, Arnold, Hardy, Rossetti, Swinburne, Wilde, Hopkins and others.
It moved us to a tipping point from brief flirtations with medicine, law, and architecture into forsaking anything and everything but a career as a writer. We wanted to see our name on the cover of a book. We wanted to make a living by utilizing the 26 characters of the alphabet. In A-Z including Elemenohpee, we saw our future. We wanted to be able to go into a library in any city and look ourselves up in the card catalog. We had no clue as to how once went about making a living at it, but such practicalities did not occur to our 20-year-old fearlessness. Eventually, our wish came true. Anyone who could look himself up in the card catalog of a library anywhere in America would never suffer from an identity crisis, or so we reasoned. It pretty much held true, so much so that we skipped our mid-life crisis and went directly into our second childhood. Life is good.
THE PLANET was at the time of our undergraduate year in the nascent phases of our writing “career,” having been published in a handful of obscure academic literary journals (The Gauntlet, The Idol, Break of Day). These publications did not win us world acclaim but it did make of us a rising star — in the English Department at Union. It also did much to boost our seedling confidence, for, truth be told, every writer experiences deep moments of doubt and frustration. Others will always be there to discourage you and tell you the thousand and one reasons why a dream can never be realized. That’s when a person must persist, alone, in pursuit of the goal. Judging by our discussion with other artists, the same holds true for painters, sculptors, musicians, and those who turn pro.
By “turning pro,” we mean to make a decision, typically at a young age but sometimes later, to dedicate oneself to one’s art, come what may. Only a tiny few can do it. It’s not a decision to be made by the faint-hearted or those who place the majority of their self-worth on a steady paycheck. When we quit our full-time newspapering career, we gave up the security of a paycheck for the life of a writer. We got lucky, but, truth be told, luck comes when opportunity meets preparedness. When Lady Chance came knowing on our door, we were ready to ravish her.
“Turning pro” means making a living at it. It also distinguishes an artist from “the dabbler,” the latter that person who likes to play act at being an artist without having to put in the time at the University of Hard Knox. You know the kind. You know the type. He calls himself a “writer” and by that means reading from his work to the participants of a “writer’s group,” who all tell him his “stuff is great.” He remains essentially unpublished and “works” playing at being misunderstood. She calls herself a “painter” and by that means getting free rent at a subsidized studio so she and others like her can hang out and drink latte waiting to be “discovered,” as if downtown North Street is Schwab’s Drugstore. You go to her “shows” to be polite, and you must stifle a critical urge to comment honestly on drivel that you mastered with finger paints in kindergarten.
THE PLANET respects dabblers who know what they are, but we loathe dabblers who try to pass themselves off as pros. Our judgment on this must be harsh, for the Lady Muse demands it.