I keep a folder labeled “Humility” on my computer. It is a graveyard for rejections and acceptances and unlabeled things. It is added to much more often than it is visited. Admittedly, it goes through periods of dormancy where I forget it even exists. But I think of it now, as a close friend relays her anxieties, her fears about being rejected from academic programs for her PhD. And the folder’s presence is a comfort.
In one of his many letters to José Rodríguez Feo, Wallace Stevens wrote, “For my own part I like to live in a classic atmosphere, full of my own gods and to be true to them until I have some better authority than a merely contrary opinion for not being true to them.” The difficulties of staying true to one’s own gods are easy enough to imagine. I want to ask Stevens other questions, like how he knew his gods so well that he could always hear their influences over all others. And what if those others are one’s gods, too?
Sometimes I write poems knowing others are going to read them, and the pressure is mentally debilitating. I forget. And I remember how simple writing was once, when I was fourteen and all of my poems were about mermaids from the moon. I knew my gods then, and I knew how to be full of them. As my friend waits for the admission committees’ responses, that memory is all I can think of to say.
But my husband is always my first reader, and that also matters. He reads no other poems than those I bring to him, be they my own or someone else’s. And he offers no criticisms to any, except to ask if I like them, a question I don’t ask myself enough regarding anything I do. He might make a good addition to the Humility folder. He might already be there.