On Discussing Tillie Olsen with a Fan of Stephen King

He meant well, as, perhaps did Henry James
When the Great Man wrote the throwaway lines
That added years to the silences
Of Rebecca Harding Davis;

And all he really said was
"I don't understand this book,
This Silences
You asked me to read."

I should have fired him then,
On the spot, yet instead these words
Served as a central mandala

To power a silence of several years'
Duration. Thinking, there is no point,
No point to writing at all, when even

A seemingly perceptive reader
Such as this one, cannot understand
Something that seems so self-evident

Something that was provided
As essential reading to all the
Wannabe (and already were) poets and novelists and playwrights

At a fairly selective college, a precious and artsy place,
A place out of time, out of step; A place
Where the only voices of dissent against
The lovers of Tillie Olsen, were a few members

Of an English faculty, who were rumored to believe
That writers' training should come from them
Rather than from some separate and voguish program

Faculty who, it turned out, would
At least in one case, silence herself
In that banal and belljar manner

Chosen by Sylvia P., guaranteeing a reputation
And tenure, for the oft reviled Ted Hughes — no slouch himself
This course charted and steered by so many now dead

Because poetry

Is widely viewed as beside the point
Or at least it seems to be so.

And yet poetry

was as crucial to her,
And probably moreso

Than the banality of breath.

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