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"