Postmodern Collage Poetry

A blog about writing collage poetry, post modern poetry, multi lingual poetry

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Poetic Community

On Saturday Waltraud and I were fortunate to have poets in our house for a party; it was a who's who of Chicago and other poets. A room full of poets is a room full of fun as they say!

I had time to reflect on Sunday about the quality of people writing poetry in our region- losses for our region- and gains of vital poetic voices that make our area a great place to be a poet.

Poets are notoriously selfish people, like painters they are focused on ' their' work and they are not focused on communal senses. Novelists for example have to think of themselves in the collective; they have audiences, agents, book reviewers, and many other people to please and so the art/writing changes and adapts to these realities.

Poetry on the other hand do not have these governors on their art or behavior. Poets are free to experiment and to starve which makes our artform uniquely insular. Poets tend to live in Poetryland which is not the most realistic place on the planet.

On Saturday there were poets in my home who I admire deeply, Garin Cycholl who I think of immediately as the most organically innovative poet of our generation, Mark Tardi, a poet whose singlemindedness makes his work purely artistic and clear, William Allegrezza a poet who I am envious of because of his breadth and I wish I wrote like, Tracy Grinnell was there from New York and she is a poet and editor but for some reason I think of her the way I think of Williams as an honest poet subversively changing the music under the story, Kerri Sonnenberg a poet who never, ever gives her readers what they expect and this is a blessing, Peter O'Leary, Robert Duncan must be his guardian angel who guides his hand to write what he does, Jesse Seldess who is a most contemplative poet writing today, Chuck Stebelton who is like a Christmas Present where the wrapping belies great poetry within; and so many others.

I have come to love the community in our region and our impending losses are to be great. Jesse Seldess is moving to Germany and Chicago will be the poorer for his loss;
Stacy Syzmaczek is moving to New York and again we will be less rich for her absence we can only hope that Woodland Pattern picks the right person to be her replacement.

In the end there are so many good people in our region whose poetry is innovative and important. We are gaining some new people over the next year, Jen Scappettone
is coming to Chicago and she will be a great presence here plus she is Italian we can always use more Italians;

we need as a region to continue to grow and build our poetic infrastructure this is the goal.

You know last year when POETRY won all that money my hope was that we would at last have in Chicago a real literary organization of note, that was not to be but I think we need one. Chicago needs to build up its small presses, magazines and it is rumored that the U of Chicago is considering starting an MFA program this would be
a major success for us here.

So partys are good- seeing poets in one place- good thing; the loss of friends and colleagues to other places painful but part of growth.

When I was at Iowa in the summer of 1988 I lived in Iowa City. It was a very hot summer and I used to eat almost every day at the Hamburg Inn, which is the greatest diner outside of New Jersey (oo the Hamburgers oo the breakfast). It was also the summer they were filming Field of Dreams and one Tuesday as I was eating breakfast I looked over and saw Kevin Costner eating with two colleagues at the next booth. No one said anything or asked for an autograph. I asked my server is that not Kevin Costner?

She said " sure but who cares, it is not like he is a famous poet or something"

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Poetic Murderers Row

I find myself watching allot of Baseball these days as the White Sox are doing so well and it is a mindless exercise to do in the heat.

This said I have also been reading allot- I am reading Umberto Eco's new book On Literature and once again Eco is wowing me. I like him better in Italian but since the Italian was not handy I bought the English version. Eco is such a Global Presence a man who brings his own culture and fuses it with world culture and makes something always interesting.

With this book in my mind I had coffee with Poet/Friend/unfortunate Cubs Fan Mark Tardi the other night and we began to talk about what is the " poetic" murderer's row of the 20th century?

We in the USA spend so much time talking about ' our' poets that we do not realize that most of the important poets of the 20th century were not American or writing in English.

If you use the Political Scientist's definition of the 20th century, which is from August 1914, the start of WWI until October 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall as the parameters the question is which poets are the most important for poetry world-wide and in terms of their influence on society as a whole the names are mostly not American.

I would break down poetry in the following manner; Europe, Americas, Asia, Middle East Africa. Now I don't know too much about poetry in Africa or Asia so I won't include these regions but I am sure that I am excluding poets of great merit forgive my ignorance reading more from Africa and Asia is on my list of reading for the summer.

So who are the poets that are the first string, the Murderers Row the Poets who have profoundly influence writing for our time? Have these poet's had a societial impact?

Here is my estimation of the most important poets for the period above divined from conversations with Mark and others;

1) Federico Garcia Lorca; apart from his great work Lorca opened up three or four avenues of poetry in this century, the dialogue with Latin America and Europe; Gay Poetics; Victim poetics; and he was a poetic martyr he was a poet and playwright.

2) Anna Akhmatova; here again we have a Poet with a capital "P" who spanned the Russian revolution and who wrote in my estimation the greatest poem/book about the 20th century Requiem. Her work was so profound that even Stalin did not have the stomach to imprison her.

3) Pablo Neruda: Communist, radical in dialogue with other artists a poet who again bridged gaps with Europe and Latin America and who wrote lyric work in a new way. Canto General is the greatest poem written in the Western Hemisphere since Leaves of Grass.

4) Ezra Pound; a profound innovator who brought the Medieval and Romance into American writing the Cantos are one of the most important poems ever written. Pound being a Fascist
also a member of the American Elite presents a profound reality most poets want to ignore.

5) Paul Celan; Celan's work is so profound and he encapsulates innovation and in Pound's words " making it new" in new ways read his translated work by Pierre Joris which are masterpieces.

6) Gertrude Stein; innovation, collage, use of language that is innovative and challenging a poet who like her friend Picasso smashed the idols and ripped open walls.

7) Nazim Hikmet; Turkish poet, innovator and profound influence on writing around the world his work is, enough said.

8) Octavio Paz; Mexico's great poet who is not experimental he is writing out of his tradition and making Mexico read to readers.

9) Paulo Leminski; not a well known poet outside Brasil but a poet who encapsulates the future
immigrant's son, Polish-African Brazilian, innovator-

10) Francis Ponge; French innovator I personally hate his work but who can argue with his influence

After batting around many names the thing that hit me hard was the fact that so many American poets spend their time only with their own poets. Americans need to spend more time with the rest of the world.

The poets writing today that I am most profoundly influence by have a large global sense of poetry and this allows me as a poet and person to grow my base of knowledge.

Poets like Jen Hofer, Peter Gizzi, Simone Muench, Charles Bernstein, Regis Bonvicino, Mark Tardi, Pierre Joris and many others do not dwell only in 'poetland' where so many American poet live in their urine sotted ignorance. These poets have read and listened to so many poets and spend their time reading outside the echo chamber of poetry magazines written for poets by poets.

Read Poems for the Millenium and realize that most of the great poetry of our antecedants was written outside the USA.

Americans are the most ill read people on the planet but American Poets need to be open to the world of the artform and to realize that many of the poets we admire are only important because they live in this privilaged society not because their writing is profoundly interesting.