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Too many good books are lost in the sea of hyperbolic blurbs, slick marketing, and over production. Robin Williams’ character, a recent Soviet defector in the 1984 film “Moscow on the Hudson” asks while gazing at Times Square, “But how are you supposed to know who the poets are?”
American poets in their desperate need to be recognized have buried themselves under a pile of their own books and magazines. Grown hungrier instead of satiated in their own feeding frenzies. who can blame the American public for not attending poetry readings or buying more poetry books if all they see is essentially the same blurb on the back of every book? So poets have created a literary Zeitgeist in this country in which they write mainly for themselves with disdain for what Ed Ochester calls “American dumb fuckism.”
So many poets are writing for other poets, and few go to the trouble to sort through the mountain of “new poetry books.” We’ve created a culture of literary incest and woefully selective reviewing.
On the other hand, not many Americans have ever been interested in reading poetry. We’re too utilitarian and materialistic. It takes a book like Howl or Ariel to dent the mainstream.
One remedy: publish anthologies and journals without crediting the authors, with the authors’ agreement of course. Let the poems speak for themselves, go viral without anyone’s name attached except Anonymous. See how such egoless marketing works in the marketplace. Believe in the test of time and the power of language over celebrity and fame. Reverse the saltless, fame-driven commodification of poetry in this country.
Does anyone really care now who wrote the myth of Orpheus or Persephone or Inanna or Adam and Eve? Why is so little known about Shakespeare compared to his contemporaries?
— by Chard DeNiord writing for Vox Populi
Many things deter people from reading poetry. I’m not convinced that the poets’ names rank very high on that list.
I think this article is important and revelatory for both poets and readers. Over many years, poetry was still accessible to the average, perhaps more educated or prosperous person, through books by individuals and anthologies and through magazines. Magazines, not literary journals. My own grandmother, who had to leave school in sixth grade to help support her mother and siblings, was bright, curious, and a lover of words. She kept one precious shelf of poetry she managed to find or buy. She was a woman who today would have been highly educated. Instead, she saw to it that all three of her children became professionals in the forties. This is the kind of person who has been cut off from ready access to poetry. The average middle-class person, educated or not, would be open to discovering and reading poetry, but can’t find it, and if they do, find it totally irrelevant to their own feelings and experience. For example, book clubs don’t do poetry although some would love it. I’m working on that. Mine actually enjoyed talking about chapbook, but, of course, I’m accessible. And I’ve shared chapbooks of other poets I love with them. On Facebook, I also mention university-based poets who would appeal to people I know, but most are MFA survivors or academics. One of the things I really like about this article is that he faces the issue of publishing head-on. Poets are reading other poets in a very insular, even elitist atmosphere. I go to readings in Pittsburgh on occasion, have taken friends who then enjoyed the poet, but I only find them through events notifications from largely academic sources who email the information or through small press event notifications. People are unaware of the smaller poetry journals that publish accessible poetry. It has become painfully clear that university-based poetry shows absolute disdain for the general public, as if they are Philistines who just won’t “get” the esoteric nuances of a “real” poem. Of course, we as writers connect with beauty through Poetry, and American Life in Poetry, smaller literary journals, etc. I love that the daily alp poetry is email accessible, and I’ve recommended it to friends. Much real, meaningful, and beautiful poetry is sustained by small literary presses. Not many of us published there will become famous. It sounds phony, but that’s not my personal interest. I just want readers who connect with simple, elementary aspects of life in a poetic way to find my work and find some personal meaning. Before fame and fortune, and even among poets today, I believe that is a real longing of some writers. I believe there are readers waiting for what doesn’t come to them readily. This is incredibly sad. As for poetry today, it’s in song lyrics of every genre. Academics tend to dismiss this, forgetting that long, long before Shakespeare, there were minstrels.
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The whole of my life has been, more and less, a continuous poetic stream…living the poetry I write… I choose not to publish. Instead, I set up a blog in December of 2013. I soon began to create audio and video versions. I now get an average of 50+ visitors a day, who view and listen to an average of two poems per visit. I write articles, which are also interspersed among the poems. My poetry is singular, highly original. I agree with you that poets and their poetry are lost in the din of American self-absorption. My way is a way to attract a loyal readership, while not large, at this point, it is very satisfying. 2014 has been a prolific year for writing new poetry. I just finished publishing my 207th poem and/or article. I have upwards of 500 more poems in my archive, yet to be published. I have many requests to publish my writing in a book. The question for me is always…why?
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