Mason: The arts have to be a presence in people’s lives. I had a great complimnet paid to me about a year ago when a friend told me about a youngman who had memorizeed a poem of mine. This young guy had recited the poem to my friend with tears in his eyes and said it was kind of passionate poetry he wanted more of in the world. I’d never met him, and yet there he was with my words coming out of his mouth. That’s the greatest honor a poet can ever have: for someone else to memorize your work, or photocopy it and put it in his or her wallet, or hang it on the fridge, or just keep your book close at hand.
Torino: Can that notion be expanded to include other acts besides writing poems? As your poem goes out into the world to touch a stranger, so might a random smile from the clerk at the supermarket.
Mason: That’s true. Every gesture goes out into the world and has a life of it’s own. The carpenter who framed the new windows in my house in Oregon comes to mind. He has made a new view possible for my wife and me. Bigger windows! Amazing! We can look out onto the woods and the ocean. We can see more. Any kind of making or doing has the potential to give someone a wider view. The supermarket clerk’s smile is a window. A poem is a window.
Tonino: The novelist John Nichols once said that if all you ever do is paint sunflowers, great; you’re tipping the scales ever so slightly in the right direction.
Mason: And you don’t know how much you’ve tipped them. You have to learn to ignore your ego’s attachment to the efficacy of what you do. You have to pat your ego on the head and say: That’s very nice, but you don’t know. Now run along. All you can do is try to make the world as beautiful as possible.