On the occasion of the launching of Six Strings some five years ago, one of my professors satirically but with some hint of admiration remarked : “Hem seems at ease to write poems with any subjects under the sun.” Rather than thinking that I was found unguided by a particular ideal or philosophy at this age, I enjoyed his remarks.
While the audience were looking at me with smiling faces, I consoled myself thinking that there could be as many poems as the people and things I came across every day if each of them ever inspired me to think.
This was not the first time I heard such remarks. This was not the first time the same professor had remarked thus. I recall one of his questions in my interview for promotion three years earlier, “You seem to have written a lot on several subjects. Don’t you think it leads to making you a generalist?”
I had agreed with him but saying that writing for newspapers I was not trying to develop a direction for specialization, but that I was simply writing and getting published. But I had forgotten to assert at that time that in the diversity of subjects that I reflected on there was still something unifying and forward-looking. My texts always portrayed a curious young observer who intently, and rarely without being witty, told the readers that many things that we perceived even were oddly shaped.
Seven years passed after the professor’s first remark, and five years after the second. I have only recently found myself better shaped at judging people’s rhetorical intentions and activities; the pursuit for fixing my academic comfort zone has formally ended with a PhD award. All of a sudden I feel to have turned invisible because many people admonish me to ensure visibility at the earliest or my doctorate will go into oblivion like many.
So, what gives one visibility?
Being jack of many trades but master of one?
Jack of several and master of a few?
The second is my advice to students though I cannot claim of being closer to any myself.
But it is sure that even a generalist can’t afford not to master one.