the poet in black
i recall reading in pablo neruda's autobiography the great chilean poet claimed the appropriate color for the poet to wear is black. my memory ain't what it used to be so perhaps he said something else about the color black but every now and then i go to google images and look up a few favorite poets, poets i am currently obsessed with, and i found two of them wear black almost always in their photos.
and i think, yes, that looks right. black is neutral. it hides a beer gut. it gives the poet gravitas, even if the poet happens to be a goofball. so is black the best color for the poet's attire? i don't know. i tend to wear the same thing. recently b. and i were checking out facebook pages of old friends. i found a photo of me at the age of 16 or 17 taken at high school in a group setting. i noticed my clothes: jeans, chuck t shoes, t shirt with an oxford shirt outside. the same thing i wear today. that is not a conscious thing. i was surprised to find the teenage me dressing the same as the middle age me.
but i was not wearing black. i don't know if that color is the appropriate garb for the poet, as neruda prescribed. any style of dress is appropriate, i say, for the poet. my friend, the late poet, pearl stein selinsky, said fashion is as appropriate as anything else in our human culture. i think pearl is right. maybe that is why i like looking at photos of favorite poets. i love looking at their faces. i like seeing what clothes they choose to wear. i am attracted to those writers who look fine even if their clothes are a bit ragged, or if they are missing a few teeth, or if their hair is a little, or a lot, messy. as one lit. critic said of the dress of the poet, 'he or she could be wearing clothes appropriate to the vice president of an insurance company, assuming them to be proper to absolute poverty; or full evening dress thought proper to a great celebration' [frank kermode 'the man in the back row has a question'; the paris review #154]. that is the best description of a poet's attire, the ragged color of the executive, the high and low, the tattoos under the tie. that is poetry to me.
the color is a different matter. the poets who wear black look great. however, i'm not sure black would look great on me. it might hide my middle age belly a bit better. but then again, i'm almost 50 so who cares if the poet has a belly! hey, man, poets are deeply human and love ice cream too! my collars are a little frayed. i have tattoos beneath my work clothes. i love the high and low and hope my poetry expresses these binaries. i might even, per neruda, and the poets i was looking at via google images, try a bit of black too.