Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Technorati - am I the last one?

To discover this amazing resource? Why does it give me an odd, voyeuristic thrill to keyword-search "poetry" and find out what's been written in the 44,000+ plus blog entries in the last hour that mention the word?

It wasn't actually an individual blog that struck me, though. I came across this item, which is worth repeating, in case your local newspaper didn't carry it.

U.S. Poet Laureate to Offer Free Newspaper Column


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports the U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry project is offering a free weekly column to newspapers, beginning this month. The column will feature a poem by a living American and a brief introduction, written by Kooser. "I want to show that poetry need not be intimidating, or impossibly difficult," Kooser told the Post-Intelligencer. Kooser said that the idea came to him after reading a highly-regarded literary journal and realizing that he couldn't find one poem that would appeal to the average reader. Kudos to Mr. Kooser for his grassroots effort to bring poetry back into the spotlight.

Posted on March 15, 2005

Kudos indeed. Poetry for the masses. Of course, I live in the San Francisco area, and we've been well broken in on the shock of occasionally seeing poetry in our newsprint. I've been thinking lately a lot about why we don't see it in more places, why poetry is -- let's say it -- so unpopular.

After listening in on a long, strenuous discussion of what was dubbed "That Kind Of Poetry" (TKOP), I have concluded that poetry is committing a long, slow ritual act of cultural hari-kiri. It is self-marginalized, eschewing the wider audience on principle.

I grew up reading poets that didn't eschew (gezundheit!) and are now non-canonical (makes them sound like someone took away their cardinal hats): Dylan Thomas, Theodore Roethke, Shelley -- sloppily mooshy poets, overly lavish and straightforward. But I also doted on difficult poets: H.D. and Wallace Stevens, and middle-of-the-roaders like Eliot. I learned from the breadth of that reading that straightforward and accessible doesn't necessarily mean shallow. I learn from today's reading of increasingly difficult contemporary poetry that difficult doesn't necessarily mean lasting and significant. Or even revolutionary. Sometimes it means overly cute, lazy or vague -- just as can happen in the straightforward kind of poetry. I hesitate to name the names of living poets, but you may imagine for yourself who fits that description.

So rock on, Ted Kooser, and write to the people. We may just pick up some converts to poetry. I can only hope Jorie and Charles don't scare them away again.

2 comments:

  1. ...straightforward and accessible doesn't necessarily mean shallow.

    I am completely with you. And would add that it doesn't necessarily mean "narrative" or "prosaic"; str. and acc. only imply str. and acc., and a poem can exhibit these qualities with a host of others. I think of Goldbarth, Hummer, McGrath... I'm getting carried away though!

    I've passed you The Stick - if you stop by disruptivejuxtaposition.blogspot.com you'll see what it is.

    Anyway, hope you'll stop by. I enjoy your blog! - Wil Lobko

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  2. Wil -- Ohmigawd, I almost dropped the stick! Never was a good catch. But having finally caught up with myself, and learned about the Stick, I promise to faithfully execute my leg of this marathon. Thanks, Wil, for stopping by and for liking Watson. Have you read his autobiography? I'm trying to get a hold of a copy. I like your blog too.

    Rachel

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