Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

The Lives of the Poets

Sometimes with large non-fiction tomes, I do not read so much as skim passage after passage, until I have read everything three times.
I am thus read/skimming Michael Schmidt's "Lives of the Poets".

He adopts an ingenious plan for his text--discursively dropping in biographical detail and light criticism in a rambling, roving survey style. It's a perfect way to pause and be pithy when one likes, but also preserves one's right to "move on" rather than get bogged down on any one poet. In other words, its style is recognizable to anyone who keeps a weblog.

As always with poetry, I'm struck by how many interesting people write poetry out there whom I have not read. It's a bit like reading those cactus books, and realizing that there are species of cacti one has never imagined, hanging out serenely on some bluff in Patagonia. I like that in "Poet's Market", when the entries for each magazine are listed, they have a space at the end of the blurb for "representative noted poets we published". The lists for each magazine are never the same. In each magazine's little universe, the definition of "noted" is entirely different.

Although in the USA, there is a "hit parade" of nationally-recognized poets, the "hit parade" does not really win all that much adulation, and further does not really capture the poet hobbyist. In some cases, an unfair backlash even arises, so that fine poets are considered unworthy by other poets, merely because the fine poets have an audience. People get so resentful about such things. It's understandable, I think, when there are more fine practitioners than there are economic resources or audience members for the craft.

My own theory of poetry is that if one has six or twelve friends with whom to exchange poems, then one has certainly as much audience as one needs, and often more than one deserves. I never write poetry for money or for fame, because I would be far better getting an MBA and becoming a high-profile corporate type if money or fame were my goals. It's just a matter of playing the odds. I write poetry because one seeks to fit another piece in a jigsaw. I read poetry because sometimes someone else has the puzzle finished, or at least a little further down the road.

I can imagine the allure of being page 479 in some future "lives of the poets", but really, what does it matter? The afterlife of the printed word is but another thing that's not really an afterlife.
I don't try to spend my remaining half-life looking for such an unsatisfying afterlife.

But I do like the look of a poem in print. I must go back to the workshop and practice again. When I get a few on the page, maybe I'll pass them around.
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded