As I was getting some stitches done in a doctor's office yesterday (don't ask!), the inevitable happened: I was asked what I do. I usually assume that Hoyle's Rules of Bedside Manner require the question, but not much by way of an answer. Ordinarily in such situations, I mumble and stumble in order to avoid saying anything about poetry: it just seems so embarrassing to talk about it in front of people who do things like save lives or make real money (or, in this case, both). I don't know why this should be. I mentioned George Starbuck here the other day - boy, did he hate this kind of shillyshallying. If you were a poet, he believed, you had to say so. Not out of pompous pride, but to face the inevitable; poets are supposed to be good at facing the inevitable, after all. George even made up useful phrases to use if you couldn't bring yourself to mouth the word "poet" - image-consultant, diction-manager, things like that - I wish I could remember them all now.
But the doc, as he was sewing away, really wanted to know. So I told him straight out. "Poetry..." he mused. "You know there's a poet I've always been interested in." I couldn't imagine who this might be.