Thursday, January 10, 2008

Who Reads Poetry?-Part II and Ted Greenwald Interview

(photo of Ted Greenwald)

Who Reads Poetry - Part II

In the previous edition of our "Poetry Venue," we began attempting to answer the question "Aside from poets, who reads poetry." You can read that article beneath the one at hand. Readers have weighed in with the following gems,

Don Wentworth, Editor of the award-winning Lilliput Review weighed in:

Recently, at the ripe old age of 56, I had the experience of teaching poetry for the first time. It was to a class of lifelong learners. Something drew them to sign up, caused an interest, from mild curiosity to some vague nostalgia or something else. It's the something else I'm particularly interested in.
Folks who don't normally read poetry seem drawn to it particularly in times of crisis, in times when we turn to ritual. Births, weddings, funerals. Poetry resonates in a way in these situations for folks that it doesn't in their normal everyday lives: in times of remembrance, celebration, and grief. It is as if during these times people are in touch with something else in their lives they don't normally see but is there all the time, all the same. It is almost like another life.
That is what most poetry readers are trying to do all the time: to get in and stay in touch with that "otherness." It is the constant remembrance that we are going to die, that there is sorrow and love and pain and beauty. Perhaps, in the average life, this is too hard to face all the time, which is why people don't generally read poetry, but nonetheless always say they wish they had time to read more, they respect those who read and write poetry, and they wish they understood poetry better (don't we all!).
So for me the question is not "who reads poetry" but "why read poetry." To quote the Bard of our generation, "it's life and life only." Don Wentworth, Lilliput Review.
P.S. The Spicer poem rocks.

Blogger Poet Hound said...

The people I encounter typically believe poetry is "too hard" and I am convinced that some children's schools ruin the chance to enjoy poetry by diving in too deep with translation of a poem's meaning or setting too many guidelines for students' creative writing. I went to those schools as a child. I love it because my father was smart enough to read me poems and leave it at that. Now I have a personal mission to get more and more people to enjoy poetry for its own sake. Sometimes the way words are put together are entertaining enough. Other times, the poems provide solace or bring forth poignant memories. Either way, every single person should be able to enjoy poetry. There is something for everyone.

David Rollison, a community college English Dept Chair wrote:

Another answer is that scholars and professors read poetry--often quite scrupulously but very differently from the way poets read poetry in some respects. This is particularly true of highly charged poetical periods such as British Romanticism or American Modernism--the profs are doing some reading and writing that is poetry in and of itself.

The Spicer poem--which I have a very nice broadside of, printed by Graham Mackintosh, late of Black Sparrow Press--says no one listens to poetry but makes poetry a natural force like the ocean--no one listens to the ocean either but that's because it's awesome and hypnotic powers overwhelm us.

Painter Jim Spitzer (see drawing above) said...

Poets-Poetry and all the other "Tender Arts" expose an often negative part of our culture. They become the target of people who have never developed a sensitivity to the intimate expressions and dreams of others. These, sometimes mindless people, playing their IPODS and UZIS to dull their inner noise that Might give meaning and credibility to their existence are a wall between between small islands of green on a dying planet.
To them---ALL OF THEM---I would say
DON'T JUDGE THE MEANING OF MY ART by your inability to understand.

Ed Hagan of Nice, CA is to the point,

We are all poets.

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Excerpts and a Poem From Ted Greenwald (see photo above)

Not being particularly conversant with Ted Greenwald or his work,
I was impressed reading his provocative interview with Arlo Quint
in the Dec.07/Jan 08 issue of the Poetry Project Newsletter.
Here are excerpts from the interview followed by a poem.

"The key is, you know, how ambitious are people? Do you all think that
you're the most important poets who are alive at the moment? Now if you
feel that way then you're gonna have a scene. If you don't feel that
way, if you assume you're just another poet, then you might as well
hang up your cleats right there."

"Sometimes competition is nota half bad thing where you sort of, somewhere in your
head, compete with someone who you think writes really well...But what I'm really
talking about is people whose work you like. You read a nice piece, and
you go home, and you've gotta write a piece. That's the competition."

"I think people get it wrong when they say they're waiting for some bigger
thing. Take what you have and say that it's an important work. I don't
make any distinction between chapbooks and big books because, to me,
when I have twelve pages I make a book of twelve pages. Basically, I'm
modeling it after an LP record--there's 12 cuts. It's a real book.
Everything should be a real book if you're gonna do it at that level.
It shouldn't just be a throwaway where you waste time and energy and
money...everything should be worth something. If you yourself don't
think it's good, how the fuck are other people gonna think it's any

"So let me just go line by line. What that does
don't get into the issue of how to turn the line, so then you get a
whole different other kind of shape happening. Every poet in the world,
once you get to that turn, then it turns proselike in the second line.
That first line is poetry, the second line is always prose if you
continue that particular thought. If you stop the thought and let that
thought go out that way and do another line, another thought or
something...whole other thoughts, whole other lines, and you move along
that way and see where that goes." (Ed's note: Somewhat belied by the
Greenwald poem below)

"I read a lot, but if I'm going to mine
things that I'm reading I'm going to look for things that are 'spoken
nuggets' as it were. I think that the most interesting thing in the
language is the noise. You can't have any communication without it. You
have to have a sense of delivering the work in public. A competitive

" people get older, they have a tendency to want to
introduce their own work, which I find tedious. I don't think that work
should be introduced...You lay it out. I don't want to discuss how I
wrote this."

" seems to me that you want the work out in front. The work should
be what people look at."


The long and the short
Of it is
I have to keep pushing
I feel myself
Pushing against the
Lead-in to beauty
And take a hunch through
With me
Ito the halls
Where the everyday
Seems like eternity
There's no fooling around
About something
As serious
As it is beautiful
There's no match
For the feeling
That gets there
When I get there
And absolutely no sense
Of duration
And no telling
How everything turns out

Ted Greenwald was born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and has lived in New
York City his entire life. During the course of a career that has
spanned some 30 years, he has been the author of numerous books of
poetry including
Two Wrongs (Cuneiform Press), his recently published
collaboration with the artist Hal Saulson.


David Rollison said...

One of the respondants mentioned "adult learners" which reminds me of a class I taught for older adults at the College of Marin--several classes actually. It all started as a way of ensuring enrollment in Literature courses--declining alarmingly as the media age evolves. A small cohort of 15 or 20 retired adults took a British Lit class, then an American Lit class, and finally I offered one for them exclusively. During one wintry afternoon, the power went out as I was teaching Keats and they had me move the podium to the window and use a flashlight (one of them had a flashlight) to read them Keats. If this question arose out of frustration or despair, rest assured: poetry is just what Shelley said it was: the unacknowledged legislature of the world!

Jim Spitzer said...

I hate words---I love pictures--- especially when I can create my own logic and order and let only the chosen, who under stand it, enjoy it. We all climb our own ladder not knowing where it's going and not caring.

Only the lucky few own a ladder. That felt better. Actually i don't hate words---i love words as long as i or you or someone else can build 2 and 3 dimensional objects. the part i hate is typing them out into pictures others can understand. I DO MUCH BETTER WITH LINES -SHADOWS AND AND COLOR---THE SAME THINGS THAT YOU WORK WITH I FEEL MUCH BETTER DRAWING AN OBJECT THAN USING WORDS TO DESCRIBE. YOU WRITE IN PICTURES-WONDERFUL PICTURES.


Ed Coletti said...


Thank you for your intuitive comments about painting and poetry. Thank you especially for the nice words about my work. As to what a poem is, I know you well enough to know that you know. I always come back to John Ciardi's text book with a title which says it all for me, "HOW Does A Poem Mean" Ed

Ed Coletti said...

Dear Readers.

I just wanted to explain that, recently, this site, along with most others, has been victimized by stupid malicious spamming. Please don't let the destroyers win. We've implemented the simple step of requesting commentors to repeat a code and ID themselves as a legitimate email address. Please take the 2 seconds necessary for this. Those of us who spend the time to put out a product of which we're proud, thrive on your comments.

Thank you,

Ed Coletti

Voltron said...

Ah..upon making a witty rhyme, my wife said to me, "Gee babe, your a poet and didn't even realize it".

I like the word verification feature. A small price to pay (a few seconds) to keep spammers out of your bloggs.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


I was tagged by Poet Hound and I am tagging you to participate in the "Six Word Memoir Challenge."

Please copy and paste the link below:

Don Wentworth, Lilliput Review