The other day I was laying around thinking about pirates and poets. It started with I saw an ad for Disney in People magazine that features Patti Smith as a pirate! I had to rip it out and hang it on my closet-of-inspiration door. As some of you may remember, I had been really affected by her book Just Kids. And I thought it seemed perfect that she was posing as a pirate…even if it was for Disney.
So I was lying there thinking…hmmm…pirates and poets (because Patti is a poet)—I want to be one! But where have I heard that before?! DUH! Kenny Chesney’s Poets and Pirates tour! Which I did see and enjoyed tremendously. But people don’t normally think about Patti Smith and Kenny Chesney in the same thought. Both pirates and poets have a mixed reputation—but both have lots of romance attached to them, too. Both live by their own rules.
I read something recently about the Somali pirates. The news portrays them as a scourge on humanity, and it’s true they have been brutal and deadly. But then I remembered two things—the first is that most of the Somali pirates were encouraged by the women on land. Being a pirate in Somalia (and even other places) is seen as a heroic, romantic way of making lots of money for the men’s families. It’s the manly thing to do, apparently. But then I heard that the FISHERMAN of Somalia are benefiting most from piracy, since big ships are so afraid of entering those waters that the fish have all rebounded and recovered from overfishing! Now, I’m not condoning violent piracy, but as a poet myself, it is always interesting to look at things from all sides and see the world differently. Is it possible that true pirates do what they do out of love—for freedom, for justice, and for the ocean? That’s certainly a romantic view. Perhaps even a poetic one.
I heard an NPR report on the radio last year about how being a poet is really one of the last few occupations that people do simply out of love (and I would add psychological and emotional survival—speaking as one who does it for those reasons alone). Since no one, NO ONE, has ever made money as a poet. Unless you count Dr. Seuss. Or Bruce Springsteen. Even Patti Smith realized that the only way she could make a living as a poet was to add music to her poems. Believe it or not, as I wrote that sentence, the Patti Smith song “Bebelogue” came on my iTunes shuffle (one out of 3,512 songs).
Well, my iTunes has lots of Patti Smith AND Kenny Chesney in it (and THAT is why, dear reader, as I told you before, Pandora just can’t handle me). In my heart, I am a pirate and poet, too. Nonviolent, of course. But fearless. And always on the lookout for a new adventure and a new way of looking at things.
Thank you, Kenny and Patti! Maybe I’ll see you out at sea.