Friday, August 26, 2005

For those of you who can bear to add another site to your digital perambulations, check out Boyd Spahr's 440 days of order & decorum, a daily whose every poem references a current member of the House of Representatives, either in the body of the poem, title or some kind of note. It will run until the 2006 elections. I'm up today, yesterday there was a fantastic poem by Alli Warren, and lots of people I have and have not heard of will follow.

I have long suspected that the "occasional" poem is one good measure of a poet's skills. Who among us could write a poem for a wedding that is not embarrassingly mawkish and cloying and also, at the same time, doesn't cause those being "honored" to scowl, cringe or fling wine? How about a Bar Mitzvah, a funeral? I'm not talking about your friends who have a good sense of humor and appreciate poetry, but, like, a non-literary and perhaps even rectitudinous relative. . . Of course, just by guessing, there's some poets I admire very much who probably couldn't or wouldn't do it. There are others who would have no problem at all. Me? Not so much.

Let me rephrase: here we're dealing less with a measure of poetic excellence than a poetic task that could be, for some, inordinately difficult, even impossible. So I've given myself an assignment: before you die, write an occasional poem that is both hair-raisingly thrilling and that does not call forth a hail of foodstuffs.

Meaning: get poetry past the sensation censors.

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Glenn Ingersoll said...

I've tried to write occasional verse. Tried many times. Mostly when I was a baby poet.

I wrote a long poem responding to the invasion of Iraq. I wrote a 9-11 poem. Or two. But I don't think these poems would get the crowd going at an anti-war rally. They're too ... I don't know ... creepy?

I read in ref to Gertrude Stein that a writer can make a virtue of her limitations. I took that one to heart.

cheers,
Glenn