I’m an ecstatically happy man. I’ve never been before. Oh, once, perhaps, when I was fourteen and wrote a story in which all the characters had Heidelberg dueling scars – the hero, the villain, the heroine, her old nanny, all the horses and dogs. I was reasonably happy then, you might say, but not ecstatically, not like this. To the point: I happen to know, possibly none better, than an ecstatically happy writing person is often a totally draining type to have around. Of course, the poets in this state are by far the most “difficult,” but even the prose writer similarly seized hasn’t any real choice of behavior in decent company; divine or not, a seizure’s a seizure.
My second main reason for deciding to let go of the poems, get them published, is, in a way, much less emotional, really, than physical. (And it leads, I’m proud as a peacock to say, straight to the swamps of rhetoric.) The effects of radioactive particles on the human body, so topical in 1959, are nothing new to old poetry-lovers. Used with moderation, a first-class verse is an excellent and usually fast-working form of heat therapy. Once, in the Army, when I had what might be termed ambulatory pleurisy for something over three months, my first real relief came only when I had placed a perfectly innocent-looking Blake lyric in my shirt pocket and worn it like a poultice for a day or so. Extremes, though, are always risky and ordinarily downright baneful, and the dangers of prolonged contact with any poetry that seems to exceed what we most familiarly know of the first-class are formidable. In any case, I’d be relieved to see my brother’s poems moved out of this general small area, at least for a while. I feel mildly but extensively burned.
(A day has passed since this last sentence, and in the interim I’ve put through a long-distance call from my Place of Business to my sister Boo Boo, to Tuckahoe, to ask her if there’s any poems from Seymour’s very early boyhood that shed especially like to go into this account. She said she’d call me back. Her choice turned out to be not nearly so apposite to my present purposes as I’d like, and therefore a trifle irritating, but I think I’ll get over it. The one she picked, I happen to know, was written when the poet was eight: “John Keats / John Keats / John / Please put your scarf on.”