The very, very small things, the mundane things, are immensely important. The mighty know this.
But it’s one thing to take care of the small things—quite another to obsess over them.
Somewhere between the slob who does not care and the fop who does, genius lies.
To win, all you have to do is be in the middle somewhere. Just avoid extremes. Be energetic, but avoid the edges.
Marla Muse: Are you talking basketball, or poetry?
And chess. Chess players always say: control the middle of the board. A piece in the middle of a chessboard is potentially stronger, because it has more moves.
Getting yourself in the middle of the action (or passing to your teammates in the middle of the action) produces opportunities in a game of basketball.
And in poetry, one must be understood in a beautiful manner: looking good and being understood are middlebrow all the way.
We don’t know if Robert Hass, one of the better known American poets alive today, is a genius, but he is astute enough to know what we have outlined above. Here is his line:
So the first dignity, it turns out, is to get the spelling right.
Traci Brimhall, an up and coming poet, has an exquisite line which works an ordinary image: a seashell.
Many lesser poets wouldn’t dare to write about a seashell.
Lesser poets would consider a seashell to lie too far towards the middle ground of Poetry Land.
Can’t you see the avant-garde poet scratching his beard, and with a smirk, saying, No.
The avant-garde poet is wrong. The center is where you want to go. The genius instinctively knows that the uncanny and the beautiful dwell more in the feelings and objects everyone knows than anywhere else.
Here is Traci Brimhall’s line:
I broke a shell to keep it from crying out for the sea.
If we have spelled her line right, we believe Traci Brimhall’s chances in the tournament are awfully good.