While Hatchet provided readers with some much-needed escapism, The Island centered its focus on what we can never escape—mortality, which, in the immediate aftermath of Paulsen’s passing, takes on new significance.
We need generous readers with the courage of conviction in their own taste, who believe in books and stand up for those convictions. Who know, as Gian did, that artistic integrity is tough to maintain without opposition to the reigning pieties.
His example was a welcome counter to the romanticized notion of the philandering rebel artist. Regular habits, a strong work ethic, and a love of revision were the secret ingredients to a successful writing career.
Oliver’s queer identity and search for meaning provided the subtle underpinning for much of her work and we—in search of understanding, comfort, fortitude—often saw ourselves and our questions reflected in it.
Was it possible that, despite my best efforts to resist proscriptive poetry doctrines, somewhere along the line I’d internalized the unspoken tenet that accessible poems of praise and wonder are less worthy of real attention?