Saturday, August 08, 2009

In Which Poetry's Obituary Appears Someplace New

I read Parade Magazine. All right? We past that now? OK, then.

From this weekend's edition:

Q Why are my tax dollars going to pay a poet laureate when nobody reads poetry?

A “It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there,” wrote the great American poet William Carlos Williams. (We hope you’ll look him up!) While it’s true that not many people read poetry, they’d probably get a lot out of it if they gave it a try. The current U.S. Poet Laureate, Californian Kay Ryan, earns all of $35,000. But fret not: Her stipend is funded from a private endowment, not tax revenues.

Don't know which I find more ridiculous, the question itself or that Parade magazine was perceived to be the appropriate reference. But in any event, let the record show that not only is poetry not dead, but no fewer than three coworkers have approached me in the past two months when they found out I was active in the poetry community to - get this - talk about poetry. We have a little book club in the office which this week has selected an anthology and asked that each attendee read aloud a poem from the book and explain why they like or dislike it. 'Nuff said.

I grow weary of people who don't know where to look for poetry telling me they can't find it. It makes me want to link to the quote that goes something like "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt", but I can't locate a trustworthy attribution anywhere.

But please: that I can't find it in a 3-minute search doesn't mean it can't be found.

And it doesn't mean it's wrong.

1 comment:

Ted Burke said...

I had an absurd exchange a few weeks ago with someone who was all fired up with the belief that poetry was dying. I pointed out to him two specific things, plainly obvious from where I stand:

1.Poetry , dispite efforts to hype it and increase it's popularity, has a small but precious audience, and this, I think, will always be the case. From what I can see, survey or no, is that nothing has changed as to the popularity of the form. Robert Haas was quoted as saying that he's been teaching poetry classes for over forty years,and that it's been four decades of listening to people pronounce poetry as dead or dying.

2. Whenever someone wants to create a controversy or draw attention to some skewed notion they have on the state of the arts, simply declare that something has died. Painting is dead. Theatre is dead. Movies are Dead. Television drama is dead. And so on. Now poetry is dead. Well, fine, I guess. But my friends will continue to write poems and give readings, listeners continue to show up and , sometimes,by one of our books. No one I've talked to feels they've attended a funeral.