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Critical Thinking in a Poet

I have had a bunch on off centered compliments in my life, most of them I’ve assumed to be positive. In moments of clarity I think that maybe some of these compliments are just requests to change from people that care about me.

I left some of my poems with a Poet I respect (Dan Langton) back in 2005. Dan read my poems, made comments on most of them with suggestions and warnings. He also sent me a personal letter, a piece of it in the following quote:

“Everyone trusts one sense above the others. In 80% of us (and thus poets) it is sight. But there is the other 20%. In Keats it is touch. In you it is smell. Be aware of that.”

I read the letter and the suggestions and put the bunch of it away. I don’t think I thought about it at the time, but after discovering the letter in a recent move, have had it sitting on my table, taunting me, for the last week.

Years of smoking, snorting and cleaning poop off dirty people in hospitals seemed to have dulled my sense of smell. Was it possible that in me this sense was so strong that I had subconsciously found ways to diminish it so that I could live among regular people?

That seemed kind of stupid.

Was my talent being ghettoized? Was I being put into the poetry world’s sub-basement next to the tasters? Was his last line to me, “Be aware of that,” a warning? Was I being damned with faint praise?
Even if true, especially if true – these thoughts seemed too paranoid to believe, but something to keep in mind for later, when alone…

Did I confuse him with too many smelly words in my poetry? Did the sprinkle of scents and flavor throw him off his game? I noted that I did use vanilla more than once, but I was in love and if that doesn’t excuse things I plead guilty. This seemed a small thing for a poet to note – more of a mathematics kind of observation.

There is certain fuzziness about the sense of smell. It’s the bad boy of the senses. Other than sight, it’s the only sense that’s hardwired to the brain. Instead of the eyeballs Ethernet like cord that plunges directly, smell works by stuff hitting a bone plate with holes poked in it. It's low tech, like a can with nail holes and dirt clods getting kick down a street, puffing out smoke. When smelling, the brain gets direct information much like a cheese grater get a pile of cheese underneath it. It’s the only sense that gets rubbed into the brain.

Now I may just be guilding the Lily on this, but I think this is what he was trying to tell me. Or, I could just call him and ask.


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