A close friend, also a poet, once asked me why I write poetry, and I replied that, among other things, it gives me a chance to make my narcissism palatable to others. She laughed. Her husband laughed. It was no joke. It seems to me that narcissism is ineluctably at the heart of poetry, maybe of every human enterprise. One-third of people will think I’m an idiot for bothering to state this. Two-thirds will think I’m repugnant for suggesting that poetry isn’t soul magic. But, however magical your soul, doesn’t its unveiling imply a touch of egotism? In lyric poetry, especially, some degree of narcissism seems unavoidable. Even Dickinson and Hopkins sought readers at some point. Now let us observe a moment’s silence for the Unknown Poets, who have defeated narcissism and won oblivion. Then, since there’s nothing to build on there, let us quickly turn in gratitude to their egotistical fellow poets, who reached through self-regard to give the bitter world a little beauty and insight.
- Joshua Mehigan, from his essay "I Thought You Were A Poet: A Notebook" in the July/August 2011 issue of Poetry Magazine.