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Re: Whatever Happened to Working Class Poems


Terreson,
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought we were discussing whether it was mostly the aristocrats who wrote and read poetry in the ancient world. You’re contending that certain aristocrats had to earn a living, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they were aristocrats with access to an education, with wealthy contacts, and so forth. You point out that Archilochus was a mercenary. But war making was always the main function of the aristocrats. The notion of a modern state didn’t exist back then, and many aristocrats simply fought for top dollar. It didn’t mean that they were poor. You appear to be trying to drill down to something, but I’m not sure what it is. I don’t think that you can negate the fact that written poetry was the province of the elite, the aristocrats. The poor were for the most part relegated to tilling the soil. They couldn’t read. The ancient world was for the most part rigidly class structured.
    
Even if it were true that certain individuals like Ovid and Propertius were poor, which the record doesn’t support, the main argument that written poetry was the province of the elite classes would still stand.

As for the poetic value of Rock lyrics, I have not seen the value that I’ve seen in straight poetry. In fact, in the case of Simon and Garfunkle, and the Beatles, some of their lyrics seem to be derivative of T.S. Eliot and James Joyce, if not plagiarism. But I don’t really want to get into discussing it. There’s bigger fish to fry, don’t you think. We should be writing creatively instead of arguing points about dead aristocrats.

Thanks, Zak
Apr/27/2011, 11:46 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Whatever Happened to Working Class Poems


"Well, Kat, what you think? Does it get more personally political for a poet than this?"

Thanks for the Neruda link, Tere. Much enjoyed.

Apr/27/2011, 3:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Again you are right, Zak. There are much bigger fish to fry. As said upthread, I am good with your larger point.

Kat, I am glad you read the Neruda lecture. It is a marvellous notion, n'est pas? All of humankind comes to the splendid city. I can think of another Nobel lecture, similarly intended, by Sinclair Lewis. I'll find it and post it to your thread. It too speaks to your thesis.

Tere
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This morning while reading The Center Post, a journal of Rowe camp and conference center, I came across "Writing on Your Bones: An Interview about Poetry with Kim Rosen." Unfortunately, I can't find the interview online, but I did find an article Rosen wrote for the Huffington Post, "Metrophobia: Are We Afraid Of Poetry?":

"And still today in most countries, poetry resides in its time-honored place at the heart of the culture. There, people turn to poetry the way we turn to the music that fills our homes and cars, the art that covers our walls, the architecture that lines our streets, the plays, dance and film that fill our theatres. In the Middle East, for instance, the most popular prime-time TV show is The Million's Poet, boasting an audience of over 70 million viewers and ratings higher than sports or the news. Within a format similar to American Idol, male and female poets from throughout the Gulf region, some from very poor Bedouin tribes, perform poems on all themes imaginable. The show has even inspired a TV channel completely dedicated to poetry.

In most cultures, reciting poetry is not relegated to the poets, or to the alabaster halls of academia. People who never dreamed of being poets, and some who cannot read or write, recite their favorite poems at the slightest provocation. Poems are recited at parties, at the family dinner table, on the street. My students from Wales and Ireland describe how the poems of Dylan Thomas or William Butler Yeats are exchanged into the night at almost any local pub.

My Iranian friend's father knows many poems by Rumi and Hafiz. He knows them in Farsi, but if you give him time, he'll recite a dozen or more, then figure out the translations for you. An Israeli friend tells me poets are regarded there as national heroes: readers line up in the bookstores of Tel Aviv for a newly released collection of poetry with the eagerness Americans reserve for best-selling novels. In Havana, verses from the Spanish poet Antonio Machado are emblazoned in spray paint on the sides of houses."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-rosen/metrophobia-are-we-afraid_b_411822.html

Curious about The Million's Poet show Rosen mentions, I googled and found this about last year's seasons:

The Arab world's version of "American Idol" isn't about singing at all. It's about poetry. Contestants on the Abu Dhabi TV show "Million's Poet" recite verse in their quest for a top prize of over $1 million. In a part of the world where poets are as famous as rock stars, the show celebrates odes to family, soccer and life in the desert.

But at this week's finale of "Million's Poet" was an amazing sight: A woman was one of five finalists, reciting her controversial poetry in a full niqab. Hissa Hilal, is a 43-year-old mother of four from Saudi Arabia who watches the world through slits in her niqab. She used the stage – and her poetry – to send a message, slamming conservative Muslim clerics who she says unfairly separate men and women, spread extremism and give Islam a bad name.

"Defeat fear and conquer every frightening cave," she read on stage. "Do not live life with one eye looking behind."


http://abcnews.go.com/WN/hissa-hilal-millions-poet-inspires-millions-poetry/story?id=10335007

In the interview I read, Rosen mentions Freedom Space, a poetry initiative founded in Iraq to help heal sectarian violence in that country:

On a bombed-out street that was once a beautiful section of downtown Baghdad, a large tent was erected on August 28, 2006, in the midst of explosions and clashes. It was the first of many gatherings of poets in what came to be called the Freedom Space events. There, while Sunni and Shiite militias roamed the streets propagating terror, men and women from both factions gathered to speak poetry together. The Shiites sat opposite the Sunnis, as if it were a competition. But by the end of the event, they were embracing and dancing together because the poems from both sides voiced the same words, the same longings, the same wounds.

There were 25 people in the tent at that first gathering. Since then the movement has proliferated throughout Baghdad and the surrounding areas. Large monthly events in central locations draw hundreds of listeners. Smaller weekly events bring together poets and musicians from all factions. Though some of these gatherings are held in areas where people have been killed for speaking poetry, more and more are risking their lives to be a part of the surge of hope shining from the Freedom Space. Even soldiers from both Sunni and Shiite militias have joined the celebration, volunteering to guard the space and speaking poetry from the stage. Some have left their posts in the army because they see in these poetry gatherings a more powerful form of peacemaking than any militia. The Freedom Space of March 2008 was held at the Theatre Hall of the technical university in downtown Baghdad. Though armed guards surrounded the space and the sound of bombs punctuated the poetry, inside an audience of a thousand—Sunni and Shiite—danced, wept, and cheered.

. . .

Poetry is a powerful force in Iraq and always has been. As Yanar [the founder of Freedom Space] explained to me how some poets are heroes in her country and have tremendous influence on popular opinion, it was hard for me to conceive of a culture so different from my own. There, “poetry is like food and drink”—even and especially in the midst of war. Ibrahim al-Shawi, an Iraqi blogger, writes, "For centuries, poetry was the first religion for many people. Their collective wisdom, their history and heritage, their values and ideals, their pride and achievements are all preserved in poetry lines."


http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/genwom/savedbyapoem.html
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Whatever Happened to Working Class Poems


In the interview, Rosen also discussed a visit she made to the V-Day Safe House in Narok, Kenya in 2007. The safe house is a refuge for young girls who run away from home to avoid female mutillation and forced childhood marriages. When the girls asked Rosen if she knew any songs, she told them she knew some songs but that what she really loves is poetry. They asked her for a poem, and she recited the first poem that popped into her mind, Mary Oliver's "The Journey." Here is a descrption from Rosen's book I found online:

“It is difficult to describe what happened in that crowded, smoky kitchen as I delivered the poem. There I was, a white, middle-class American woman, surrounded by Maasai girls who had grown up in tribal villages in the Rift Valley, in families so poor that the two cows their parents would get when they gave their daughter to an old man in marriage were their only hope of a better life.

But as “The Journey” filled the kitchen, there was no separation between us. We were transported into a timeless, placeless, languageless realm where we were the same. By the end of the poem, tears were running down my face and several of the girls were crying as well. Several of them dove toward me, wrapping their arms around my waist. There was a long silence. Then Jecinta asked, “Who is this woman, Mary Oliver? Is she Maasai?”

I shook my head, barely able to speak. “American,” I whispered. “Mzunga. Like me.”

“How did she know?”

http://www.owningpink.com/2009/10/04/saved-by-a-poem-how-poetry-bridges-gaps-just-might-save-your-life

Although Mary Oliver is one of the best selling poets in this country, many of her fellow American poets don't like her work. Here's the poem Rosen recited:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Oliver reading the poem at Maria Shriver's Women's Conference 2010:
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNqSWiYWDaw&feature=related
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Katlin Profile
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When asked by the interviewer how she memorized so many poems, Rosen said: "I don't actually memorize poems, I learn them by heart. There is a huge difference. I don't even like to use the word memorize if I can help it. Learning a poem by heart is a mutual relationship in which you let yourself be changed and healed. The ancient Tibetans used to call it 'writing on the bones.' They couldn't read or write, so they passed down the Buddha's teachings by memory. They knew that taking these teachings into themselves was a bodily experience."

I love this story of an Iraqi woman with a real talent for writing poetry on her bones:

A well-loved speaker at the poetry gatherings is a young woman who goes by the name of Hind because it is too dangerous for her to use her real name. When she takes the microphone at a Freedom Space event in downtown Baghdad, a hush falls over 1000 people. Many have heard her speak poetry at previous gatherings and have been waiting with anticipation for her turn on the stage. Hind does not write poetry; rather, she has a gift for learning poems by heart. As she moves from a classical Qasida (a highly structured ode with intricate rhymes and rhythms) to the work of modern Iraqi poets, the textures of her voice change to meet each poem. The whisper of an intimate love poem breaks open into an emphatic shout that fills the auditorium as she speaks the truth of the eighth century female mystic Rabia al-Adawiyya: “I am a Doorkeeper of the Heart, not a lump of wet clay!” In moments she even sweeps into song, like an osprey lifting onto the wind, singing the verses that pour out of her memory in a voice at once delicate and fierce.

It is almost impossible to conceive that this young woman had only recently been rescued from a nightmare of forced prostitution, torture, and imprisonment. After being kidnapped in her late teens, Hind was bought and sold repeatedly in the sex-trafficking industry that has become rampant since the occupation. When the last brothel that bought her was ambushed, she was thrown into the women’s prison. This is where Yanar and her co-workers found her.

. . .

As Hind embarked on her recovery from the years of trauma, she discovered tremendous healing in learning poetry by heart. Like most people from her village, she could neither read nor write. But this did not diminish her genius for remembering and speaking poetry. The inhabitants of southern Iraq, where Hind was born, have been deprived of development and education for many decades. In spite of this, Yanar told me, they are known to have a talent for poetry. “Expressing their emotions comes spontaneously. They are so eloquent! In their spare time, when they are sitting among their families or their tribes, they speak in poetry together.” I could hear Yanar’s profound respect for these people for whom “the only tool for expressing the chronic deprivation, pain, and anger is poetry.”

In the West, when we think of a talent for poetry, we usually associate it with writing poems. But in Iraq and many other countries, poetic ability is not confined to composition. Many, like Hind, have a gift of memory that is startling to those of us in the Western world in whose minds, overcrowded with modern multitasking, such indigenous abilities have been lost or submerged. Al-Shawi writes, “People in the countryside and the desert have truly astonishing capacity to remember poetry . . . I have met people who can remember 50 lines of a poem after hearing them once. The rhythm and the music in the words of course help. I once met a Bedouin who in the course of an (extended) evening must have recited several thousand lines of poetry, covering almost three centuries of his tribe’s and region’s history.”


http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/genwom/savedbyapoem.html

Last edited by Katlin, Apr/28/2011, 3:03 pm
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Christine98 Profile
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Re: Whatever Happened to Working Class Poems


Thank you for these posts, Kat. I will read them one more time at least. Always loved that Mary Oliver poem.

Chris
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Re: Whatever Happened to Working Class Poems


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13141263

Mexico poet Javier Sicilia leads anger at drug violence
Apr/28/2011, 4:14 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Kat, you have been clearly on a roll today. You get this way from time to time. We are the lucky recipients when you are. I'm loving all the stories and info. Especially the Mary Oliver/ Massai women story and the Hind story. But it all rather speaks to the Neruda Splendid City notion, yes?

Here is something I've thought for quite some while. The question being: why is poetry more highly prized elsewhere, in other countries, than is the case in America, read, recited, memorized by heart by the rich and poor alike? I don't think Robert Graves explicitly said as much. But either he implied it or I took from his White Goddess thesis a certain conclusion. Poetry is tethered, more likely grafted, to traditional societal forms. Where the forms are village-centric, agriculturally based still, even economically pastoral (pastoral in the sense of animal husbandry), poetry thrives into the 21st C. In a non-traditional society such as America's has been since before the Civil War era, it does not thrive nor is it valued. The last poet/writer to be respected and attended on by politician and businessman alike might have been Melville. But the case is different in other countries. You point to the Middle East. In Spanish language countries poets are feared by dictators. In the former Soviet Union Stalin feared both Akhmatova and Mandelstam. In the 1990s in Russia Yevtoshenko recited to people-filled sports stadiums.

Of course, there is an alternate explanation for poetry's American death experience. Our poets have left off speaking to the personal universal experience, only speaking to themselves or to each other.

Tere
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Hi Libra,

The article about Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, who stopped writing poetry and turned to political activism when his 24 year old son was murdered in the Mexican drug wars, reminded me of an article Chris sent me a few months back about David Grossman, an Israeli writer whose youngest son was killed while serving in the army. The death of their sons forced each man to re-evaluate everything about their lives, including their writing:

As for his poetry, Mr Sicilia has decided to silence his voice.

His last poem was dedicated to his son, and was written just hours after the violent murder.

"Poetry does not exist in me anymore," it ends.


For Grossman the experience was different:

"I would not have chosen this catastrophe," he says. "But since it happened, I want to explore it. I feel I was thrown into no-man's-land and the only way to allow my life to coexist with death is to write about it. When I write about it, I'm not a victim. It is strange and unexpected to discover this. The great temptation is not to expose yourself to these atrocities. But if you do that, you've lost the war. The language of war is narrow and functional. Writing is the opposite. You describe your reality in the highest resolution even when it's a nightmare and in doing so, you live your own life, not a cliche others have formulated for you." On that terrible night in 2006, he told himself, as he walked from the bedroom to the front door, that life was about to end. "That's what I felt at that moment. But I was wrong. Life is different, but it's not over."
 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/aug/29/david-grossman-israel-hezbollah-interview

I think Sicilia might agree with Grossman when he said: "Maybe I cannot afford the luxury of despair. Maybe. Or maybe it's a question of personality: I cannot collaborate with despair because it humiliates me to do so."

 

Last edited by Katlin, May/1/2011, 5:56 pm
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Kat, I've decided this is one of the better threads you've started, and you've started many good ones. It seems to bring something viceral out in us all.

On a different note, I was telling the Maasia story to a co-worker today, a woman. I started tearing up, barely able to finish.

Tere
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Zakzzz5 Profile
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Terreson/Katlin,
I'm behind in reading some of the postings above. Got to catch up. However, I had some comments to make on a couple of things Terreson posting here. He wondered why poetry was not as valued in our country as it is in other countries. He speculated it had to do with our having lost the village-centric or agriculture based society. I agree that this might be part of it in the sense that even in our small towns people's habits and perceptions have been restructured by radio and tv to a much more serious degree than in third world countries.

I also agree with Terreson that poets here have ceased to speak of death and other serious issues. There is an effort, instead, to be cutting edge, to be clever. Not everybody, but many write this way.

I would add that our strengths are also the fountains of our weaknesses in this sense: It's commonly agreed that America is an anti-intellectual country at its base; historically we have been proud of our pragmatism. Yes, there have always been idealists, artists, poets, but the base has always leaned toward the pragmatic. Benjamin Franklin. Inventors, entrepreneurs, money men. Invent a cotton gin, an automobile, a new screw. I don't know why the inclination of the spirit leaned in that direction; what started it. Maybe you'all have an idea, or ideas as to why.

Also, at the core of our belief system, there has been a fundamentalism; look up Cotton Mather. Also, the Pilgrims and Methodists were into doing away with the Baroque in our liturgy and even in our clothing. It's had a strong impact on our frame of mind, frame of reference with regard to art. Again, maybe you can expand on this, or object to it. I'm interested.

In this country, relatively speaking, a poet is looked upon as too frivolous to be considered for an important political post. But also, as you said, Terreson, maybe the people who love poetry have fled to Rock and to Rap, and before that to other forms of music. You don't have to think as much when you're listening to music as you do when you're ingesting and memorizing a poem.

Thanks for your your thoughts. And I'll try to catch up. I know there's some good posting above. Zak

quote:

Terreson wrote:

Kat, you have been clearly on a roll today. You get this way from time to time. We are the lucky recipients when you are. I'm loving all the stories and info. Especially the Mary Oliver/ Massai women story and the Hind story. But it all rather speaks to the Neruda Splendid City notion, yes?

Here is something I've thought for quite some while. The question being: why is poetry more highly prized elsewhere, in other countries, than is the case in America, read, recited, memorized by heart by the rich and poor alike? I don't think Robert Graves explicitly said as much. But either he implied it or I took from his White Goddess thesis a certain conclusion. Poetry is tethered, more likely grafted, to traditional societal forms. Where the forms are village-centric, agriculturally based still, even economically pastoral (pastoral in the sense of animal husbandry), poetry thrives into the 21st C. In a non-traditional society such as America's has been since before the Civil War era, it does not thrive nor is it valued. The last poet/writer to be respected and attended on by politician and businessman alike might have been Melville. But the case is different in other countries. You point to the Middle East. In Spanish language countries poets are feared by dictators. In the former Soviet Union Stalin feared both Akhmatova and Mandelstam. In the 1990s in Russia Yevtoshenko recited to people-filled sports stadiums.

Of course, there is an alternate explanation for poetry's American death experience. Our poets have left off speaking to the personal universal experience, only speaking to themselves or to each other.

Tere



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It had not occurred to me before this conversation that poetry was more valued in other places. It feels sad to me that the American spirit of pragmatic Protestantism should overwhelm the spirit of awed naturalism and adventure I like to associate with the American mythology.

I suppose there is something to be said for the lack of common relevancy in many modern poetic practices. Surely, though, there are such effete practitioners everywhere, and many poets here who do communicate more accessibly. Perhaps it has to do with how poetry is taught in public education, or how thoughtful activities seem to attract bullying? Surely, however, there are strong voices in the American public with poetic sensibility and heroic bravery such as in Mexico or Iraq. Is it that they are not considered acceptable fare for tv infotainment? Is it that we have become too accustomed to sound-bite journalism and too nationally attention deficit to take the time to take in more? That's not me, or you here. What are the avenues in these other places that keep poetry an integral part of the mainstream?
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http://www.alternet.org/rights/150260/%22get_up%2C_stand_up%22%3A_do_americans_have_what_it_takes_to_stand_up_to_corporate_power_and_does_wisconsin_offer_hope/?page=entire
 
AlterNet / By Susan Warner and Bruce E. Levine
  
"Get Up, Stand Up": Do Americans Have What It Takes to Stand Up to Corporate Power and Does Wisconsin Offer Hope?

Bruce Levine discusses his upcoming book "Get Up, Stand Up," which analyzes why Americans have been crushed into inaction and how recent events in Wisc. offer hope for change.
 
March 15, 2011
Apr/30/2011, 6:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Good thoughts, Libra. Spoken straight and not just from the head alone. I key in on this: "Surely, however, there are strong voices in the American public with poetic sensibility and heroic bravery such as in Mexico or Iraq." And this: "Surely, though, there are such effete practitioners everywhere, and many poets here who do communicate more accessibly."

As best as I can tell there are two groups dominating the poetry scene in America: poets working in the context of academia and what I call professional poets, MFA types one can find associated with such organizations as the Poets Foundation. Perhaps it is just me, but increasingly I find both groups irrelevant and by any standard one wishes to measure them. Again this is a personal judgement, and subjective, but I find them irrelevant to poetry, to art, to culture, to America, and to what this whole thread has been about. Mind you there are notable exceptions to the rule and not just a few. One poet who comes to mind, and with a foot in both camps, would be someone I met through the Poetry Foundation. Her name is Annie Finch from Maine I believe. She strikes me as a master of her craft, solid, accessible, and, for lack of a better word, connected. But in general I note just the opposite in the dominant groups: the disconnect. I gave up on the official scene long before I came on line in 1999 and found poets and poetry.

But I am not looking to bash the official scene, not anymore. I've done that enough. What's that great L. Cohen song line from Cheslea Hotel #2? "But you got away, didn't you babe. You turned your back on them all." That's how the matter stands for me.

As for your poets with strong voices and poetic sensibilities, in touch, and accessible, among other places I find them here, on line. From time to time the case gets made that, on line, there are only poets speaking to other poets. I strongly disagree. I think there are poetry readers who come on line for the sole purpose of finding poetry. It might have been our friend Zak, but someone once said about an online poem read: Why am I not finding the likes of this in bookstores? Of course, Zak is a poet. But I think the question points to a larger audience in attendance, even to a larger need. One subset of people I've noted over the last decade plus are those seeking out poetry in reaction to one personal crisis or another, often it is a spiritual crisis, or a crisis that brings everything they have taken for granted in their lives into question. Meaning what? Meaning that these people have been forced by some personal circumstance to re-evalute practically everything they had taken for granted. This sort of person seems to turn to poetry in the same way someone differently inclined might turn to religion or faith. But this is only one subset.

My sense of you is that you keep to a rather large network of on line venues. Kat operates similarly. Cul and Zak play on at least one other board I know about. It all points to just that: networking. On our very, very small board I can go to its control panel, click on the feature called board stats and see how many times the board has been viewed in a day. Consistently the views number in the hundreds, usually in the several hundreds, sometimes in the five to seven hundreds. There are two fundamental groups: members of Runboard and non-members of Runboard. Ratio is about 50/50. So somebody is seeking out poetry.

What I am trying to get to in a circuitous fashion is that, in my view, on line has become the poetry scene's fifth column in America. A bit underground, a bit subversive, and pretty much operating behind the lines, so to speak. This leads me to two thoughts. This is where you are going to find the kind of poet and poetry I believe you are looking for. And this is to where poetry readers have turned, having turned away from the official scene possibly for reasons not dissimilar to mine.

This is my sense of things. I've pretty much stopped decrying the official scene, first, and I'm thinking poetry is alive and well in America, just not found in places where it once was. In our Right Word forum I posted Sinclair Lewis's 1930 Nobel lecture. It is worth reading. I see no qualitative difference between his argument, then, and how some of us feel now.

Tere
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Seems to me Kat has widened the discussion, stepping out of the (U.S.) American context. Here is a link to the rest of the world to search out.

http://international.poetryinternationalweb.org/piw_cms/cms/cms_module/index.php?obj_name=international

Tere
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To paraphrase Robbie Robertson, man, this thread is sure stirring up some ghosts for me.

An old poem going back to '83 not speaking itself to a working class pathos, but certainly expressing a personal/political stance in the way only lyric poetry can. Neruda would have gotten it. He would have caught how it trades in the language of Classical literature, how it involves one queen of Carthage betrayed by one militaristic type, Aeneas, founder of Rome, what would become an Imperial power. Then the historical choice anyone can get.

Your Wet Breeze

If you let me back inside you
we'll have it all again,
I'll touch you like before,
I'll please you like I did.

And if you keep me standing here
where your hungry soldier stares
at a chance he will not take
in a game no one controls,
your rank, ripe garden
will bear you to the ground,
and spoil the air you breathe with
the fruit of you burst on breezes.

But if you let me enter there
we will have it all once more.
We'll turn the key on Ionic measure
and take the lees when memory blends.

Already, Dido's daughter,
you got me caught on desert wind.

Tere
May/1/2011, 6:27 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Whatever Happened to Working Class Poems


Thanks to all for your comments. I, too, have been enjoying this thread. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't have a plan when I started it, so I am surprised by what folks have been contributing and by what I've been learning.
May/4/2011, 4:50 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Whatever Happened to Working Class Poems


Poet CD Wright Weaves History, Reporting, Storytelling in Verse

The volume "One With Others" is CD Wright's 12th. It was recently awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award.


Listen to Wright discuss and read from the book:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/jan-june11/poet_04-26.html


May/5/2011, 6:29 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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 Terreson wrote:

  My sense of you is that you keep to a rather large network of on line venues. Kat operates similarly. Cul and Zak play on at least one other board I know about. It all points to just that: networking. On our very, very small board I can go to its control panel, click on the feature called board stats and see how many times the board has been viewed in a day. Consistently the views number in the hundreds, usually in the several hundreds, sometimes in the five to seven hundreds. There are two fundamental groups: members of Runboard and non-members of Runboard. Ratio is about 50/50. So somebody is seeking out poetry. [Terreson, I wrote a longer response, a well-thought out response, but I clicked on the wrong button and the computer ate it. Basically, I was saying that our small numbers are okay in the context of what we do. We go after quality, so our existence within our narrow corridor is tolerable. We have three-hundred million people: we get two hundred hits. Justin Beiber gets more. The aims are different. We exist because we do. I may respond better later.]



What I am trying to get to in a circuitous fashion is that, in my view, on line has become the poetry scene's fifth column in America. A bit underground, a bit subversive, and pretty much operating behind the lines, so to speak. This leads me to two thoughts. This is where you are going to find the kind of poet and poetry I believe you are looking for. And this is to where poetry readers have turned, having turned away from the official scene possibly for reasons not dissimilar to mine. [I'm going to post a couple of poets mentioned in the Michelle Obama's poetry night. You're more up-to-date on the poetry scene, I'm sure, so maybe I can get some feedback on these mainstream poets. I didn't find them necessarily better than what I see on the online poems. They didn't seem to be any worse, however. And obviously, they've found the connections they needed. Anyway, more on this later.]

This is my sense of things. I've pretty much stopped decrying the official scene, first, and I'm thinking poetry is alive and well in America, just not found in places where it once was. In our Right Word forum I posted Sinclair Lewis's 1930 Nobel lecture. It is worth reading. I see no qualitative difference between his argument, then, and how some of us feel now.

Tere



May/14/2011, 6:19 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Man, I hate it when a good post gets lost in cyberspace. No consolation that it is likely mingling with dark matter. Anyway, I am good to go with what this board is about. And for much the same reasons you cite. I hope everyone is. Likely we've lost posters to how slow proceeedings are here. Most of whom have brought things I miss. But it is what it is. Something else occurs to me. We all live hundreds, even thousands of miles away from each other. The chances are slim to none we would have found each other without the on line venues. That makes for a whole lot of poetry I would not have otherwise been privy to.

And don't be so sure I am more au currant than you are about the poetry scene. Kat, for example, is clearly more in touch with the scene than I am. Good chance you are too.

Tere
May/14/2011, 2:16 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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"[I'm going to post a couple of poets mentioned in the Michelle Obama's poetry night. You're more up-to-date on the poetry scene, I'm sure, so maybe I can get some feedback on these mainstream poets. I didn't find them necessarily better than what I see on the online poems. They didn't seem to be any worse, however. And obviously, they've found the connections they needed. Anyway, more on this later.]"

Hi Zak,

I was prompted by your comment and by a comment on John Latta's blog to check out the poetry night at the White House. Here's a video of the evening's performances:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/05/11/president-obama-poets-white-house

Here's Latta's blog comment:

I peek’d at that White House frou-frou roux with “Kenny” Goldsmith and “Billy” Collins—two wits closer in demeanor, delivery, and significance than either’d admit—and recall’d Nabokov’s Pnin at the “Cremona Women’s Club” (“Cremona—some two hundred versts west of Waindell”). All so mannerly and edifying and self-congratulatory. . . .Frankly, between the repeating thuds of smarm and the duds of self-garnishment, I had to retreat.

http://isola-di-rifiuti.blogspot.com/2011/05/feignd-and-unfeignd.html

You all have probably heard about the contraversy stirred up by conservatives regarding the appearance of the rapper Common at the reading. If not, Silliman has collected a bunch of links on the topic at his blog:

 http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/2011/05/live-at-white-house-its-elizabeth.html

More on Mexian poet Javier Sicilia:

"Violence Suffocated a Father’s Poetry, but Not His Voice"

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/world/americas/14sicilia.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1



Last edited by Katlin, May/17/2011, 1:30 pm
May/17/2011, 12:00 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Whatever Happened to Working Class Poems


Katlin, and others,

Collins seems to write very conventional poetry. Almost like he's a poet of the 1940's. A safe one. But he is capable; he's understated in manner, and he doesn't leave a lot of fat on his poem.

Goldsmith has written some interesting poems. He wrote one based entirely on the weather reports in NYC, and at the White House he read one based entirely on the traffic reports across the Brooklyn Bridge or thereabouts. I think it's a rather bold thing to do. What amazes me is that the establishment was open enough to the work he's doing to reward him. Isn't this sort of a contradiction to what people are always saying about the establishment?

I did listen to most of the presentations on the tape you posted here, Katlin. I don't know if the poets were playing it safe because of the venue, or whether they seemed to be devoid of anger, angst, and so forth. What I did notice, apart from their being more conventional than the poets on the two boards I mostly visit, is that they were for the most part totally comprehensible.

Thanks for posting this, Katlin. Most of the presentations were NOT exciting, not thrilling. I can see why Rock, and music in general, has hijacked what poetry people listen to. But as I stated, maybe you have to be safe when you are presenting at the White House. Zak

 b]Katlin wrote:
Hi Zak,

I was prompted by your comment and by a comment on John Latta's blog to check out the poetry night at the White House. Here's a video of the evening's performances:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/05/11/president-obama-poets-white-house

Here's Latta's blog comment:

I peek’d at that White House frou-frou roux with “Kenny” Goldsmith and “Billy” Collins—two wits closer in demeanor, delivery, and significance than either’d admit—and recall’d Nabokov’s Pnin at the “Cremona Women’s Club” (“Cremona—some two hundred versts west of Waindell”). All so mannerly and edifying and self-congratulatory. . . .Frankly, between the repeating thuds of smarm and the duds of self-garnishment, I had to retreat.

http://isola-di-rifiuti.blogspot.com/2011/05/feignd-and-unfeignd.html

You all have probably heard about the contraversy stirred up by conservatives regarding the appearance of the rapper Common at the reading. If not, Silliman has collected a bunch of links on the topic at his blog:

 http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/2011/05/live-at-white-house-its-elizabeth.html

More on Mexian poet Javier Sicilia:

"Violence Suffocated a Father’s Poetry, but Not His Voice"

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/world/americas/14sicilia.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1




May/17/2011, 4:58 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Hi Zak et al,

Safe was the word that came to my mind too regarding the WH poetry reading. Safe and pleasant. Like a game of croquet with lemonade in Victorian England. The grownup equivalent of an Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn. The other image that came to mind was of a series of animal performances I saw at a local zoo/wild life sanctuary a few years back. Specifically, the performing dogs who did their tricks to the tune "Who Let the Dogs Out? Who? Who?" (I think the association has something to do with Goldsmith's paisley suit as some of the dogs were decked out in froufrou costumes.) Nobody was singing the body electric, and I doubt the top of anyone's head was taken off by what they heard. Not exactly fiddling while Rome is burning, more like playing the xylophone while DC is smoldering. But, yeah, maybe you have to play it safe when you are presenting at the White House. I'm sure I'd be polite and pleasant and nervous and wearing my best shoes, too, if I ever got the chance to meet President Obama and the First Lady.



Last edited by Katlin, May/18/2011, 3:00 pm
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Re: Whatever Happened to Working Class Poems


P.S. I also think the performing dogs came to mind because the WH performances seemed neutered to me. The pre-event screening would have tried to insure that no one who was invited was gonna pee on the rug, to borrow a phrase Bly once used, but I wonder that none of the poems was the least bit provocative, not just politically but in anyway.

Am I being churlish? Ah well. It's one of those days when "I, too, dislike it." I've been trying to think of what poets/poems I would have liked to have heard read at the WH. Anyone have any preferences?
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I'm feeling less churlish about some of the poems read at the WH now that I've read "A Country Without Libraries" by Charles Simic:

“I don’t know of anything more disheartening than the sight of a shut down library”

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2011/05/charles-simic-i-dont-know-of-anything-more-disheartening-than-the-sight-of-a-shut-down-library/

Last fall where I live there was a ballot initiative to raise property taxes on average about $12 to $18 a year in order to keep the local library open the same number of hours and to prevent staff layoffs. I was sad to see it fail.
May/18/2011, 4:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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I like the idea of poetry at the WH, the promotion of poetry as something of value, worthy of honoring etc. Non-threatening, non-controversial...yeah...but not terrible, not an insult to poetry. Of course, others may disagree.

My local library is closed on Mondays now. I hate the thought of not having it. I can't afford to buy all the books I want to read. But I'm wondering what will happen now that Kindle is muscling in on the action anyway.

Not churlish, Kat. Sad more like.

Chris
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"I like the idea of poetry at the WH, the promotion of poetry as something of value, worthy of honoring etc. Non-threatening, non-controversial...yeah...but not terrible, not an insult to poetry."

Chris,

Your comment made me realize that the poets who went to the WH were like ambassadors for poetry, and as such, they were acting diplomatic as much as anything else. Some deference, some schmoozing, a little humor, a little self-congratulations all went into the mix. In many ways the reading reminded me of many open mics I've been to in terms of character tendencies: the comedian, the actor, the person who just has to squeeze in an extra poem, the newbie, the one or two who try to be outside of the box, etc.

 
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Silliman commented on the WH poetry reading:

Collins’ irony is much closer in practice to the work of Kenny Goldsmith, something that might appall them both. Where Kenny & Billy differ is that Goldsmith’s shtick has much more historical consciousness & contextualization, and to some degree depends on it.

and:

Compare this with the spelling-bee aesthetics that emerge from Poetry Out Loud champion Youssef Biaz’ recitation of a Sharon Olds poem at the White House – having Biaz’ recite a poem by a living writer, rather than asking her to be there to read her own verse, bespeaks of an approach to poetry that reeks of 19th century women’s clubs’ appreciation societies. Even tho Poetry Out Loud has broadened its own horizons since it began – one of my sons competed a year ago with a work by Mina Loy – the form seems unable to get beyond its divorce between the creative act of writing & a sentimentalized public presentation.

http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/2011/05/laura-winton-aka-fluffy-singler-is.html

I heard Sharon Olds read once. She didn't read the poem Biaz recited but she read enough of her own poems, as well as a number of Elizabeth Bishop's, for me to know that she would not have read that poem in the head-tilting, oh-so-serious way Biaz did. I've also heard Billy Collins read twice. Both times he read the lanyard poem, which I assume he considers to be a sure bet as a crowd pleaser. Jill Scott I recognized from the HBO series based on Alexander McCall Smith's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" books. Kenny Goldsmith, who advocates uncreative writing and plagiarism, is the guy who Kent Johnson "conceptualized" when he out G'ed Kenny G by reprinting Goldsmith's Day.

I didn't watch this myself but in case anyone is interested:

Poetry Student Workshop at the White House

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks about the importance of poetry and self-expression as she hosts a White House Poetry Student Workshop with students and poets like Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Kenny Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, and Aimee Mann.


http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/05/11/poetry-student-workshop-white-house

Last edited by Katlin, May/18/2011, 8:47 pm
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Just found this article and thought it belonged
here:

http://motherjones.com/media/2011/04/vivian-maier-john-maloof

Chris

Last edited by Katlin, May/20/2011, 2:54 pm
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