Homo Bulla


Writers are necessarily ambivalent about any kind of recognition—honors, prizes, simple praise—because they are ambivalent about their relationship to the present. The first audience that a writer wants to please is the past—the dead writers who led him to want to write in the first place. Forced to admit that this is impossible, he displaces his hope onto the future, the posterity whose judgment he will never know. That leaves the present as the only audible judge of his work; but the present is made up of precisely the people whom the writer cannot live among, which is why he subtracts himself from the actual world in order to deposit a version of himself in his writing. The approbation of the living is thus meaningful to a writer only insofar as he can convince himself that it is a proxy for the approbation of the past or the future—insofar as it becomes metaphorical.

Rocket and Lightship by Adam Kirsch | Poetry Magazine