Monday, April 14, 2008

HEATHER responds to NatPoMo

We have a very special guest blogger: Heather of banana fame...and my lovely girlfriend. She will be responding to my NatPoMo bits and showing everyone that I am silly and frivolous. Please welcome Heather:

It has recently come to my attention that my boyfriend is spreading dissent about National Poetry Month through this blog. *sigh* Where to begin? I suppose where Craig does in his NatPoMo post. (I really do hate that.) Some argue that National Poetry Month spoon feeds watered down words to the masses. I would say that’s inaccurate. Some really great stuff is getting put out there in honor of the month. Check out the Poetry Everywhere project where animated versions of accomplished poems new and old are being broadcast on PBS and public transit systems. True, it’s not T. S. Eliot, but the featured poems are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and hopefully make people think.

And what’s wrong with poetry having a general appeal? Throughout my public education experience, April was pretty much the only time my teachers could take a break from state-mandated test-prep curriculum to talk about poetry. And because I grew up in the buckle of the Bible Belt, it was really “safe” poetry. The first poetry books I bought and discussed with other writers were by Maggie Vaughn, the poet laureate of Tennessee. Her poems have rhyme and meter. They’re about country music and growing up agrarian. Her target audience is retired ladies’ book clubs. But I loved them. I even memorized some of them. Maggie Vaughn taught me to appreciate poetry, tuned my ear to it, and, in truth, showed me what not to do with rhyme and meter. My point of this trip down memory lane is to say that we all have to start somewhere. Some of us have to begin with poetry that has the comforting sing-song of nursery rhymes and narratives we know before we have the confidence and desire to dip our toes into the deeper waters of academic poets. The trick is fostering that desire in readers which is what National Poetry Month aspires to do. But props to those people like Charles Bernstein and Jim Behrle who comprehended the metaphysical ramifications of Ezra Pound’s Cantos on the first read.

And speaking of Jim Behrle, the comic strip frame Craig has featured really pisses me off. Why on earth would a poet discourage people from writing poetry however good or bad it may be? Regular people writing poetry is what makes it culturally relevant. No one gives a shit about a bunch of academic elitists telling them what’s good and what’s not and aren’t they stupid not to see it. Based on hearing the same kind of diatribes during the supposed question and answer sessions at AWP, I can only guess that some poets express frustration with their own work and bitterness toward publishers by tearing down others.

About the question of what restricting it to a month does for poetry, well, I wish poetry was celebrated year-round, especially if my poetry’s in on it, but like most things in America, it’s all about the benjamins. Believe it or not, poets don’t make a lot of money, and it’s primarily poets spending money on poetry. Therefore, my theory is it’s a better use of funding for poetry-loving organizations to band together and really get the word out there for one solid month than to bleed marketing dollars to preach to the choir for twelve. Hopefully, folks will get hooked on the good word that one month and demand more the rest of the year. I hope it with all my heart.

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Stay tuned for my response.

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