Basil King essay “The Past is as Present as I Want the Future to Be” (2022)

This essay is one of 25 interviews and essays in “On Becoming a Poet” by writers associated with Marsh Hawk Press.  Al Filreis of Writers House says this anthology is “gratifying not a how-to for becoming a poet. These are stories of what transpired as and when the realization occurred.”

Pubishers Weekly
BEST BOOKS – Review May, 2022

On Becoming a Poet: 25 Original Essays + Interviews
Edited by Susan Terris. Marsh Hawk, $21.95 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-73261-413-0
“While modern creative writing programs seek to develop the talents of maturing writers, essential information about the… craft can be discovered in the early memories of established writers,” posits Terris (Memos) in this solid anthology on being a poet. Twenty-five contributors lay out how they were brought to the form: David Lehman recounts in “Opening Shot” his experience reading “Song of Myself” in high school, while Basil King reveals in “The Past Is as Present as I Want the Future to Be” that “if as a young man a gallery or galleries had been interested in showing my paintings, I would have had no time to think about writing.” Philip Lopate keeps it short and sweet in “Poetic Influence: John Keats’ ‘When I Have Fears,’ ” in which he writes, “When I read this poem the first time, I was an adolescent, filled with doubts.” The essays are heartfelt, surprising, and show there’s no one path to becoming a writer: Mary Mackey, for example, argues in “Fevers and Jungles” that “the thing that did more than anything else to make me into a poet, was fever. But first it almost killed me.” Aspiring poets will find a rich vein of insight in these thoughtful pieces. (June)
25 ORIGINAL ESSAYS and INTERVIEWS. An innovative anthology of essential information about the development of the writing craft—memoirs and interviews of outstanding poets from diverse backgrounds who recall the ways by which they made their start as writers.

Contributors include Jane Hirshfield, Arthur Sze, Denise Duhamel, David Lehman, Alfred Corn, Phillip Lopate, Sheila Murphy, Mary Mackey, Indigo Moor, Kim Shuck, Philip F. Clark, Gail Newman, Basil King, Denise Low, Sandy McIntosh, Jason McCall, Geoffrey O’Brien, Lynne Thompson, Burt Kimmelman, Eileen R. Tabios, Dennis Barone, Rafael Jesús González, Tony Trigilio, Stephanie Strickland, and Julie Marie Wade.

“ON BECOMING A POET gratifyingly is not a how to for becoming one. These are the stories of what transpired as and when the realization occurred. Or: “The first time it happened,” to use Mary Mackey’s phrase. “It”—the proximate cause, and then the poetry itself—was a pepperwood tree. It was a Mrs. Sullivan who stopped to care. It was the nomination of Robert Bork. It was the school chorus as an opt-out from gym. It was a translation of a Tang dynasty poem into English. Find these instigations here and then find yours.”
—Al Filreis, Kelly Writers House, University of Pennsylvania

“ON BECOMING A POET is a necessary text for any active and engaged reader. Whether you’re a practicing poet, a teacher looking for more sources, or a lay reader who is just interested in poetry, you’ll find something in this text for you. The scale of this text alone makes it worth readers’ while: 25 poets from diverse backgrounds revealing their meaning-making strategies and poetry origins stories! The personal component of this text is so compelling and helps the text to teach without being overly didactic. This book is a blessing and needed addition to the archive and canon.”
—Douglas Manuel, Bayard Rustin Fellow, Whittier College

“The book is just smashingly good, and I’m so impressed with the density and breadth and solidity of these pieces. In the old days, it would have been one of those books that an entire generation of young poets eagerly snatched for their shelf– I so hope it can still do that now, in these more fractured times. It deserves to be there. ”
—Jane Hirshfield