Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It appears that I packed the wrong things

The other day, somewhere, I heard James Baldwin referred to as "James Baldwin, the poet." It startled me. I know of him as a social critic and by far as an essayist. I know he wrote some novels and plays but I wonder how many people read them anymore.

But I would think few people would identify Baldwin simply as a poet. It sounds almost unbecoming. It evokes the intellectual of a certain social standing who writes but has nothing published. For lack of a better description, his friends call him a poet. I think it is indisputable that the best of what Baldwin wrote was not poetry.

But still, the expanses of my ignorance are many and broad. Had I missed a whole range of his writing that ought to be compelling?

A quick search seems to indicate that indeed poetry was a sideline for Baldwin and that not much is missed by not having even been aware of it. I did, however like this particular poem. It appears to be an excerpt from a longer poem, On Being 52, from Inventory.
My progress report
concerning my journey to the palace of wisdom
is discouraging.
I lack certain indispensable aptitudes.
Furthermore, it appears
that I packed the wrong things.

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