Best description of reading poetry I’ve found was in a review of Amy Gerstler’s latest volume, Dearest Creature, from the Sunday Times Book Review. Written by a fellow poet David Kirby, it is clear he knows of what he speaks: “Look, a poem either sends you a bill or writes you a check. You can use up too much of your intellectual and emotional capital, not to mention your good will, and come away feeling had. Or you can pat your billfold and say, ‘Hey, this baby just got a little fatter.’”

He goes on to flesh out the metaphor:

When I’m asked by fellow air passengers what I do for a living and reply, “I write poems,” the reaction is often a startled smile, as though they’re thinking Homer! Dante! Milton! (At least that’s what I’m thinking they’re thinking.) And then comes the lean-in, the furrowed brow, the voice thick with compassion as my new friend says, “But there isn’t any money in that, is there?”

There are some pretty snappy comebacks to this one, but what I usually offer is Somerset Maugham’s “Poetry is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.” Actually, Maugham says “money,” not “poetry,” but that’s the point. Money and poetry both act as catalysts, and they bring together objects and experiences that wouldn’t have anything to do with one another otherwise. Wealth takes many forms, and sometimes it shows up as stanzas.