Friday, March 3, 2017

Thought Provokers

Following last week's Moonlight musings, I serendipitously encountered some more reflections on the value of poetry: a short but delightful video featuring Australian actor Jack Thompson (the son of a noted poet) and a longish, somewhat contentious article by an American Professor of English, Seth Abramson. Though they're very different, I decided to treat you to both.

I'll have to do this by giving you the links, below. I've made them big, but I really want you not to click them until you get to them. And I do want you to click them then – not before, and not later, but where I've placed them. It's intentional, even if it may seem I'm getting ahead of myself at some points, with my commentary preceding the material.




Jack Thompson (image labelled as free download)



I love what Thompson says and have no argument with it. I think you'll love it too, and find it confirming.

LISTEN HERE





Seth Abramson via Creative Commons



The link to Abramson's article was posted on facebook by my old pal Thom Woodruff (aka Thom the World Poet) and after reading it I commented there:


"He does make some interesting points, particularly in the second half of the article, but I couldn't help thinking that he seems largely unaware of the grassroots where you and I live. Then I reached the end and saw that he is a Professor. Yes, that makes sense. Despite a nod to rap, remixing and such, his views are held in the context of academia, no matter how much he would like us all to break away from it. The point is, many of us never entered it, and pay no attention to any 'poetry police'. (I say 'us' because what he says is wider than American poetry.) Nevertheless, he DOES make some good points. (It's just that he seems to think no-one has discovered stuff a lot of us have been doing for ages). All in all, I'm glad to have read this, and will bring it to the attention of others, as raising points to think on. Thanks."


[By 'grassroots' I mean in Thom's case the vibrant culture of (non-academic) readings and workshops in cafés, which he has instituted in Austin, Texas and other places; in my case my involvement with online poets such as yourselves, many of whom are experimental in various ways, and certainly not constrained by current vogues. Think De Jackson, Brian Miller, Jae Rose, Shay Simmons, Annell Livingston....]


Despite my demurrals, I think the article is worth reading in full, partly because of Abramson's unusual (and to me attractive) views on defining 'poetry' and partly because of his suggestions as to how to keep it alive ... even though I don't happen to think it's dead or dying. If you can't manage the whole read now, perhaps you could do a quick scan and return to it later.


READ IT HERE.


I would be fascinated to know your responses to each of these items!


A bit of belated Googling informs me that I may have under-estimated Abramson, who is 'an American poet, editor, attorney, freelance journalist, and professor of English.' (Wikipedia.)


He is also a prolific author, as you can see at his Amazon page, where I see that he has for several years co-edited an annual anthology of 'innovative verse' called BAX: Best American Experimental Writing. Seems like he puts his money where his mouth is! And critics seem to rate his own poetry highly. I think I'll have to investigate his work and find something to share with you! But that's for another day. For now, what do you think of his opinions? And Thompson's?

18 comments:

  1. Good onya Rosemary. There is so much to read (and so little time!). I shall make time to listen and read though. My own impression is that poetry is very much alive and well in Australia (at least). The creative output and other activities of poets such as your good self are proof of this. As an avid poetry reader I am never short of good material. Thank you for keeping us informed and provoking our thoughts :)

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    1. Thanks for chiming in. I did give people a lot of weekend reading this time but hopefully it will fascinate others as much as it did me. Yes, I think things are pretty vibrant in Oz!

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  2. Thought-provoking indeed. I LOVED the video, and Jack Thompson, and his wisdom about the wonder of the present moment, fully appreciated. Am a bit unsettled by the long article. Poetry is far from dead and I so agree with you about the experimental poets you have named, whose work we admire week after week - they are creating their own genres, and their work amazes me constantly. The online poetry community opened the world of poetry to me, revealing a world of poets passionate about writing poems. It is one of the luckiest connections I have made in my life and I have a body of work to show for it that I never would have written without all of you. Thanks for this very interesting feature, Rosemary.

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    1. I have come across the point of view, among (only some) poets who don't blog, that those of us who do are inferior poets who can't get 'real' publication. As we know, this is so wrong in so many ways! (Not least because blogging poets often do get published in more, er, mainstream avenues.) I doubt that Abramson and his ilk have even looked at what we're up to out here.

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  3. I have scanned the article, and will come back for more, when time allows. Thank you for including my name, what a surprise!

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    1. Well, you are one who has made an unusual style your own. There was a time in the eighties-nineties when some poets sometimes used spaces between phrases as a kind of punctuation, but occasionally, and as part of an array of unusual punctuations, while maintaining the customary short line-lengths. What you do is highly original and most effective.

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    2. Yes, it is a lot of reading; thanks for scanning the article for now. (I should probably add that option to my post.)

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  4. "I'm still here." I'm still here and now, and ever more so. Thank you for Jack Thompson! And whether or not poetry--American or not--is a niche culture,the idea that Seth Abramson begins his article with, I find the cynical tone here difficult to read. My favorite part is the Charlie Chaplin video and favorite insight is that all the included videos are poetry. I watched them all, whereas I skimmed the article point to point rather than read every word. I like how it ends. I used to like the style of writing that sets up a straw dog and then slowly refutes it, but no longer have the patience for them. I'm also rarely the intended audience. Seth doesn't intend to speak to the converted, but the unconverted who might cheer at poetry's murder. He and I would enjoy talking together. Every attempt to murder poetry has enlivened it. Poetry leaks through everywhere even if it starts with an audience of only poets. We're still, as Jack says, "still here." ANd there are so many of us, no library could ever keep up. (This was fun. Thanks.)

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    1. Good point about who Abramson's article seeks to address. I love your very apt statement: 'Every attempt to murder poetry has enlivened it.' Yes, yes, yes!

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  5. I specially enjoyed the video where Jack Thompson celebrates 'here and now'. Seth Abramson's long article goes over my head as I could not digest the idea of poetry (he speaks of American poetry in particular) being terminally wounded. Though one could feel that he's writing with great pain at the present situation of poetry of his land. May be he's speaking of some hard, unpalatable truths of which I have no idea. However what I see at present is a forceful stream of online poetry sites flowing very steadily. And I love to be present in the 'here and now'.

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    1. I'm glad you and others agree with me about the healthy state of poetry as we encounter it!

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  6. A great and unique feature at looking at poetry from so many angles. Thank you Rosemary.

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  7. I really enjoyed reading "10 Ideas that Could Save Poetry." I do hope others will spend even a little bit of time reading that article too.

    One idea I really liked is the one about not feeling compelled to like any poetry that is not as meaningful to one as one's favorite music, comedy, cinema, visual art. We should not just have to like POETRY as if poetry is all things. We should be able to pick and choose as we pick and choose the movies we watch, the music we listen to. So no one should have to like ALL poetry, just as no one should have to like all movies. This makes sense to me. The author said that 95% of all poetry probably is NOT for you. Ha, did you ever feel that way?? I have. I have never heard someone say this exactly the same way before.

    Another point I liked was that poets are charged with torching language and all of its conventions. I remember when I first learned to read and write poetry there were conventions....capitalize the first letter in each line, for example. I often think that teachers who teach poetry this way are really not poets themselves. I remember how excited I was when I discovered e.e. cummings and Don Marquis, for example. They broke rules, and I loved it.

    Rosemary, you are right...there are poets among us who break rules. I too think of Annelle as an example. But, as I think about it, there are many of us who break rules in our own way. I think many of us proudly write outside of convention.

    I like the idea that poetry is perhaps the only way to authentically perform your life. Any of us who have written a body of poetry probably can identify with this.

    And, on that note, I truly do enjoy performance poetry. I wish I had more opportunities here to see poetry performed. There are a lot of performance poets online, and for a while I did listen to them. Lots of young people - so I do think that poetry will have a future!

    Rosemary, there is so much depth in what you have shared today. Thank you for your research & for your time!

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    1. Oh yes, Mary, you have picked out things I liked very much about that article too. Although I take issue with some of his perceptions, I wouldn't have shared it if I had not thought it had useful –– and even exciting – things to offer as well.

      And I agree – I think most blogging poets are quietly and happily doing their own thing. We may explore traditional forms and styles at times, for the fun of that, but are equally ready to develop our own. I just picked out a few who sprang to mind.

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  8. I was totally enchanted by Jack Thompson’s remarks especially his view that is in keeping with my view: that in poetry you can distill a group of words that capture the essential quality of something – of anything … and that there is wisdom to be gleaned from that process and in our reflection on that experience.

    I had issues with a lot of the points that were made by Seth Abramson. I see poetry as freeing – and I, very much, take an anything-goes approach to writing it and reading it. Remarks, such as the remark which follows – referring to ‘American poetry’s rigid subculture’ left me scratching my head:

    “today, poets are struggling to accommodate the internet because it feels technocratic rather than bohemian, is too large and invasive a sea change in human culture to readily grasp, and is much harder to market in the book-publishing milieu that American poetry’s rigid subculture still idolizes.”

    Poetry is written and read by many, many people. I don’t think it lends itself to blanket statements referencing a rigid subculture – in the least.

    A very interesting and edifying article, Rosemary.

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    1. No, I am pretty sure he has his academic blinkers on when expressing that opinion! I think, as Susan suggests, he is writing for a very specific audience. I suppose there is a poetic 'establishment' in America as elsewhere, which most of us happily ignore and have little awareness of – but if one's working life is bound up in academia, one may forget the large world outside it. We out here, I notice, are not troubled by the too technocratic nature of the internet, LOL. However, the next sentence seems to suggest that – like many of us – he sees publishing possibilities beyond printed books and big publishers. It's just that he seems to be making a case which surely no longer needs to be made. But perhaps, in some circles, it still does need to be.

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  9. I naturally loved Thompson's video. Perhaps because it states what I like to hear about poetry but I felt he was personal, genuine and inspirational. I agreed with Abramson's idea of poetry as a meta genre though i think it goes without saying that we read the kinds of poetry we like, much as we listen to the kinds of music we like.
    He has some interesting ideas about poetry being dead and I think the pros and cons of this theory have probably been explored extensively. I recently read a short article in Poets and Writers magazine in which the Poetry Coalition ( a partnership of 20 poetry organizations in the U. S) assert that "the popularity of poetry appears to be on the rise." They state " that there are gigantic increases in people subscribing to poetry journals and List-serves...Everything is trending up. Nothing is trending down."
    I have been surprised to learn how many of my friends (non-poets) read poetry and even write a poem every so often. Of course there are those who frown at its very mention. To paraphrase Thompson - We must cherish this moment we live. So I will continue to write my poetry for myself and for those who may find a moment of amusement or deeper thoughts in it. I don't think poetry will ever die, as the human spirit will never die. Most poets write because they must, not to resuscitate an art form but because something callls them to it.
    Thanks Rosemary for bringing us this video and article. I like how you stir up my thinking.

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    1. Myrna, that's a beautifully thoughtful comment, thank you. I too am surprised when non-poets like poetry, e.g. when 'real-life' friends reveal they read mine online. I think the prognosis is certainly better than is sometimes thought. It's just that we've all bought the idea that poetry is not a popular art form. Sure, not as popular as football, say, but that doesn't mean it's entirely disregarded. I think it's true that people are asked 'Do you like poetry?' lumping all kinds together, in a way they aren't asked, 'Do you like music?' or 'Do you like art?' and if someone said, 'I can't stand jazz,' we wouldn't think that meant he didn't like other music. So I think Abramson raises a useful point there. And I too like what he says about poetry being a meta genre. (For one thing, it can potentially free up our creativity even more.)

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