For the young who want to

3 01 2007

For the young who want to
by Marge Piercy

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

See what Lorraine has to say about this find in the Kitchen today . . .I read her blogpost aloud to Favorite Daughter, and surprise, she knows Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing!” She read it last term at college. It literally (and literarily) thrills me that FavD is the modern incarnation of that nose-in-her-book college literature student of 30 years ago, who Lorraine described herself as having once been, and that FavD thus might grow up to be thrilled herself 30 years hence, remembering a woman’s story from today and telling more young women in turn of its import “in terms so firm and plain as to command their assent.”

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