Radio Diaries: Clay Feet

May 5, 2017

On the first night of the writers conference, a famous poet was at the podium.  Witty and eloquent, he spoke about writing as a sacred calling.  “Art makes the mystery of life deeper,” he said and we all nodded.

Then he picked up his new book to read his glorious poems—and the one that knocked me out was about his wife.  Such love, such devotion!  Ah, to have a husband who wrote you poems like that.  I bought three of his books.

The next morning I went for an early walk and noticed the famous poet jogging with a group of young women.  One of them was my roommate.  “I’m having a drink with him tonight,” she told me and didn’t come until dawn.

“But that poem about his wife!” I said—feeling angry on her behalf.  Could I still admire the poems if I’d lost respect for the poet?

My roommate said I was hopelessly naïve and maybe she was right.  But it took me a long time before I could read those poems again.  Before I could accept that my hero was a complex and flawed human being—just like me.

“Art makes the mystery of life deeper,” the poet had said.  He was right.