Friday, March 13, 2009

Disconnected weirdos

From The Poetry Foundation:

Sometimes I wonder how it would go if I had to chose between writing and reading. It’s one of those desert island questions. More than travel, more than interpersonal relations, more than food, sex, sleep, these are the two loves of my life. They are what connect me to myself, and connect my self to the world.


Really, sir? I mean, we all like that lovely quip -- when I have a bit of money, I spend it on books. . .

But books more important than people? (We'll ignore for a moment the food, sex, sleep problem)

More important than people?

If these are the words ex cathedra from our last lonely house of Poetry, how can we be expected to reach IRL humans?

I would dare venture that the above statement is not applicable to most reading Americans (remember, that's 1/3 of the population).

Perhaps this is why poetry is such a dead husk. We've got the mouths of the trade aping the idea that words are more important, nay, more vibrant, than actual people. Maybe this is why the annual, real readership for poetry is about half a million Americans (at best). If 1 in 600 folks feel this way, then I guess that's their thing

but Jesus, aren't people more than that?

I like words. That's pretty evident in my choice of trade. But I like people more.

Words are the way we communicate -- the way we mediate. Words are the glue that holds people together. It's like appreciating nails and not a house held together by them. Special glue can make a great musical instrument (thanks, Strad') but you play the violin, not the boiled horse.

The valuation of words over humanity must be the reason I hate so much of our national poetic output -- I'm glad, then, that The Poetry Foundation tipped its hand here. It's nice to know they really are just crazy.

So we can reach 1 in 600 people with words gratia words. Maybe, if we wrote words for people, we could increase that number. We know that 1 in 3 folks like to read (mostly prose). Maybe 1 in 30 could like to read poetry? Maybe more?

All I know is we'll never know until we stop believing that words are more important than people -- that is, stop believing that the poem is more important than the reader -- a carpenter's duty may be to the chair -- but the chair has to support someone. Today's poetry collapses under the weight of humanity.

Don't write for words' sake.
Write for humanity.


Kirby Olson said...


Kirby Olson said...

But you can't fake being nicer than you are, I think, and you can't fake being less confused than you are, just in order to give a good message to others. That's worse. You have to write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

So help you, God.


I mean, our job is to bear witness, and not to try to come off as saints, or to exhort others to become saints. Or at least that's how I see it. said...

If we lose sight of the human, then art or any other activity is meaningless.