Thursday Poems?

August 31, 2010

Yesterday Dr. Lorentzen was lining up readers for Thursday Poems, and I took the only open slot, October 21.  I could read alone that day, but I thought I’d see what the feeling was for CoPo doing something collaboratively– not required, but whoever wanted to–from our coursework.  Responses, suggestions?

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Spectrum of Criticism: Brooker v. Heaney

August 31, 2010

Fresh out of class, I wish we didn’t have to leave just as the discussion was getting good.  The vertical line of the spectrum that we created on the board posed a dichotomy that was widely agreed to be “problematic”: poetry existing for the sake of art, beauty, and expression  Vs.  poetry functioning as a factual necessity of life.

Two critics that we didn’t really have a chance to compare directly, Jewel Spears Brooker and Seamus Heaney, both attack this dichotomy directly.

Brooker asserts that there was validity in just attempting to capture experience in words as she asks “Can we look at September 11 in terms of aesthetics alone?”  Brooker offers the possibility that some experiences just wont fit into the words we try to use, but that we, as poets, are still able to try.

Heaney poses poetry not as a simple means of expression, but  as an intrinsic necessity – that poetry satisfies a mysterious vacuum in the world of expression and communication.  He cites Havel: “Poetry is a state of mind, not a state of world.”  This quote pulls another binary argument onto our discussion: the natural process of language  Vs.  true representation of the world. Poetry is fueled by obligation, and even in its flawed nature, it is fundamental in human communication.

Both Brooker and Heaney bend the two ends of our art-or-necessity-axis until they are aligned.  Poetry is the attempt to capture indescribable experience in fixed words, but is it impossible to try and fully succeed, or it is impossible to try and fail?

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What do you think?

August 31, 2010

In Dana Gioia’s essay Can Poetry Matter?, she quotes Robert Bly claiming:

“We have an odd situation: although more bad poetry is being published now than ever before in American history, most of the reviews are positive. Critics say, “I never attack what is bad, all that will take care of itself,”. . . but the contrary is full of young poets and readers who are confused by seeing mediocre poetry praised, or never attacked, and who end up doubting their own critical perceptions” (21).

Acknowledging this essay was written in 1992, is Bly’s claim that we as critics are actually depreciating the standard of quality and of future performance still relevant? Do you feel affected by this?

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Oh, Audre Lorde

August 30, 2010

Of all the essays we were assigned to read, Audre Lorde’s is the one that has hit closest to home for me.  Her essay functions as a sort of call to arms for women, a reminder that for us poetry has been and always will be a part of our history, hidden and kept safe in the dark places within.  To all those who would say that poetry is merely a form of entertainment, a luxury, a mess of wordplay and funny rhymes, Audre Lorde stands as a firm reminder that “it is vital to our existence” and to deny that would be to deny womanhood in a sense.

Poetry helps us to give shape to our grief.  It allows us to express images, sounds, and dreams in a way that may not make sense, but must be spoken of (or written about) and at least we must try. Audre Lorde says that there are no new ideas, no new pains; we have already heard and felt them all.  But we continue to write about these things because if nothing else female poets are in constant dialogue with each other specifically. We are reminding one another of where we’ve been and where we are going. Who we are and what we are becoming. Our poems are expressions of empathy and love for one another. It is our process of remembering and passing down our collective and personal histories.

I think she is right. Maybe there are no new ideas, no new joys or sorrows or pains. And is that a bad thing? Maybe the poets who try to focus all their creative energies into creating something the public has never seen or heard of before have got it all wrong, and to get caught up in that defeats the purpose of poetry.  I don’t know. All I know is that Audre Lorde is awesome and her essay was a very uplifting and beautiful end to my night.

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The First of a Series of Completely Emotional Responses

August 30, 2010

I have not yet finished reading Dana Gioia’s essay, “Can Poetry Matter?” and already I have been moved to tears. For many years the facts of this essay have remained dormant in the back of my mind, hiding behind the towers of well-known poets and poems–all from authors long deceased not only in body, but in the minds of the majority of people, world-wide.

I have stopped my first reading to take down some thoughts. My heart has been pinned down by the enormous weight of the subject at hand–the decline of poetry in the world, but specifically America. (Even as I write this, I am reminded of poetry’s lack of place, particularly by the reports from FOX News, which have chosen to cover the trial of Paris Hilton, instead of any number of events occurring in the world of poetry today.)
While reading I have had thoughts of grand upheavals in reaction to this article–storming into the first Aubade meeting (Sept. 2 from 5-6:00 p.m.) and demanding that, not only do we go through the necessary steps to reprint this essay at the start of this Fall’s publication, but to change utterly the content of the letter from the editor at the front of the issue and instate a new policy to include critical or insightful reader-responses to the art. Instead the editor’s shout-outs to friends and praise of the work within the publication, an honest statement that not all of the art included is up to par and an entreaty for the readers to vigorously peruse the magazine and decide for themselves what earns its keep. In my dream, this all goes beautifully. Hundreds of students, teachers and those in the community who seek the Fall issue of Aubade write in to praise, to critique, to condemn, to contradict and most importantly to serve as a testament to reader’s attentive observation and interaction with the text.

All of this, whirling the activist dust of my mind into a terrific tornado, banging against the walls of my skull and begging for an explosive release of phonemic breath. And yet the pressure begins to change and I know also that, even if I burst into that meeting, waving the essay about with my hand and insisting, I most likely be asked to leave. I most likely would.
And still, I cannot help but be disturbed. I cannot help but wonder at a solution. I cannot help but hope Gioia will provide one at the close of this essay, but her title is not promising.

I’d like to talk about possible alternatives to the current method of poetic publishing and ask you all if you have any thoughts on possible solutions.
There are some big problems pointed out by this text, among them the regressive nature of the inner circle of readers, publishers and critics; the neglect of poetry by the world at large, especially the realms of media and politics; the stress on quantitative, not qualitative work by writers throughout academia; and many more, and, honestly, I don’t know what to do about them.

[Edit]:

I just finished reading the essay and I must say, I was not disappointed. I am glad to see six tips on how to amend the crisis of poetry in our culture.
So, it is here that I would like to open the floor to other suggestions for how to amend the situation, in a similar vein as Gioia’s. Here are some of my own:

1) Memorize your favorite poems. Maybe take 5-10 of your favorite poems and dedicate the time to memorizing them. I’ve done this with only one poem in its entirety and parts of many more, but I’ve found it has added to my appreciation for the lyric qualities of the poem. Not only does this better your personal appreciation of the poem, the poet and poetry in general, but it’s also a cool thing to do on a whim for a group of people (I usually only do so for my close friends and loved ones) but every time I’ve done so it has incited a reaction at worst and at best an interesting conversation.

2) Talk to friends and family about the state of things in the world of poetry. As simple as it sounds, talking to people as if poetry were politics will, I think, increase awareness of it and, hopefully, get people to hold up higher standards for themselves. Let us not be the “jackals,” but let our “snarling” by a call, a command to the Muse for the well to fill, to be over-filled.

That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll add more if I think of something else.

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Christopher Walken a poet at heart

August 30, 2010

In this new day and age, so many celebrities are trying to reach in artistic fields that they very well know they shouldn’t. Actors trying to be singers, singers trying to be the next Apprentice and so and so forth. Plus, every famous person seems to author at least one book in their lifetime which almost always becomes a hit because of its famous author alone not the literary quality of its contents. With that said and done, i would like to show you a rare instance where an actor successfully bridges the gap to full-blown poet. Enjoy.Christopher Walken does Lady Gaga

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Poem of the Day

August 29, 2010

Mainstream culture is relearning about the fro. (We used to write it as ‘fro, to show its Roots.) Imagine: This lady never has a bad hair day.

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Sylvia Plath read “Lady Lazarus”

August 26, 2010

I know this is a little bit early for Plath, but I’ve always loved this poem and this reading of it. I still get chills whenever I hear it. What a creepy video too, right? An interesting choice of visuals. Particularly eerie to me is the original papers where she wrote them–the handwriting and the scribbles.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/esBLxyTFDxE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Here’s also an interview that I found interesting:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/OvBtZ3zMs6I" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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Poem of the Day Podcast

August 26, 2010

Learn Out Loud is a really brilliant resource. Once you sign up (don’t worry, it’s free), you have access to this vast archive of audio and visual media. The feature that will probably be the most useful to us is the Poem of the Day Podcast. Many contemporary poets have been featured over the last few weeks, Adrienne Rich, Mary Oliver, & Carl Sandburg among them. You have the option to stream the audio online or download it as an MP3 to your iTunes. I am not certain if all of the poems are read by the poets themselves, but the ones I have listened to are; I imagine that the Lord Byron poems were probably not read by him, though. Below is a link to an Elizabeth Bishop poem:

Download Lullaby for the Cat, Elizabeth Bishop

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Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg

August 26, 2010

Just wanted to let everyone know that there is a cool exhibit up at the National Portrait Gallery in DC right now that features Allen Ginsberg’s photography. It includes pictures of famous members of the Beat movement (such as Jack Kerouac) as well as photographs of his friends, lovers and himself. The exhibit ends September 16th, which actually coincides with the week we will be studying Ginsberg.

Maybe we can get together a CoPo car pool?

Link to the exhibit is here.

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