My Taste: A Poem
Taste is a tricky thing. We mistake our taste for an arbiter of quality, calling something terrible or brilliant because we like it, without any resort to an objective standard.
One of the most humbling realizations as an editor or reviewer of other people’s work can be that, while you hate a particular piece of writing, there’s nothing at all wrong with it. It can be good even if you don’t like it. Just as every writer has a style and a viewpoint, so does every reader, and you probably will never please them all.
When we’re young, a lot of us want to change the world. We’re going to write the game-changing novel, or discover the missing piece that will lead to universal happiness.
But what exactly is the change we seek? What do we want to cure in humanity, or gift to it that would make everything better? Does everyone even want the same thing? And how much time have we spent learning what is wrong so that we’re even trying to fix the right thing?
As we get older, we often become less idealistic, believing that it’s either unrealistic or arrogant to think that we can make a difference. Me, I became overwhelmed. I’ve tried hard to look into the lives of every kind of person I come across, to understand the deep needs that aren’t being met, to discover what they have too little, or too much of, and how an alteration of their circumstances might actually affect them. After all, lots of people want to win the lottery, but those who have aren’t necessarily any happier.
For 2018, I want to set the bar very high for myself. I want to search for that thing that everyone can understand and relate to, instead of writing for the lowest common denominator, seeking instead the highest.
So for 2018, here is my pledge: to look more clearly, to ask more questions, and to try to discover what, if anything, I can really do to make the world a better place. If it’s through my art, all the better. If not, I hope I will have the humility to help in another way.
This poem is about learning that even personal preference can be a luxury others can’t afford to exert.
Would be more acceptable if it was only my own
If I was stating my disgust with brown bedding
Or floppy hats
My love of strappy sandals
And a sunset with boats sailing through
But my taste isn’t only my taste
It wants to look at the bigger picture
Those tall yachts are a lifestyle I can’t fathom
So to speak
Not when I compare it to the place I stand
And the disadvantaged folk sharing this beach with me
What place do strappy sandals have in a world
Where having shoes at all can make the difference between going to school or not
And having good work boots can mean the difference between having a job
And going hungry
Every year you don’t have those boots
Adding to the likelihood you’ll fall further away from any job
From any chance of a livelihood
How can I justify a preference for this bottled water over that
When water runs free and clean from my taps?
My taste likes to remind me of that good fortune
When I consider water from a store
My taste never stops reminding me that it is a luxury others don’t possess
I’ll exercise it with restraint
Until everyone can have their own.