Poetry and Uncertainty

is the title of Jane Hirshfield’s essay in Nov/Dec issue of The American Poetry Review. It is, like most of Hirshfield’s essays, a compelling read. As I begin the dark crawl into the mindset of editing my second manuscript, I’ve found many parts of this essay useful/interesting/thought provoking. In particular, I was most drawn to an amazing quote from Dr. Michael Dickson about flies:

As for insects, they may not think but they certainly make lots of decisions. What we perceive as behavior is really just a seamless string of decisions: should I mate with you?, should I vomit here?, should I fly off this overcrowded rotting peach on the chance I’ll find a lovely uninhabited rotting peach? Flies make decisions forcefully, uninhibited by memory and nostalgia. Little six-legged Fortinbras. We like Hamlet better, because his uncertainty cuts so close to the source of our humanity. We cannot tabulate costs and benefits without being helplessly swayed by our memories and emotions. We get all bollixed up with uncertainty because we really don’t see things clearly. Our minds drift and we can’t quite manage to pull the trigger.

As for editing, I’m a blue-bottle fly–of course, this is also like awakening on the first warm day after a long, cold winter. I’m bumping into everything, and flying away with nothing.