Monday, February 4, 2008

A Rusty Can of Worms

i was in a meeting at work today and found myself jotting down some thoughts on the totally overdone subject of poetry's lack of readership. i think it had something to with thoughts i was having about my work as a copywriter and how i've never worked at place where anyone other than fellow copywriters really "got" what copy was all about. below are those thoughts pretty much the same as i jotted them down:

writing in general is not appreciated. a general readership almost always has no idea what they are being confronted with when they read a text.

unless you're saying something very familiar or completely emotionally and intellectually sophomoric--e.g., life lessons for the npr set or some sort of john grisham-esque thriller--you can't realistically expect to have more than a precious few readers. nor should you want more than that. or so says i.

at the same time, as a poet i don't always want to be talking to other poets. poetry is about energy. it's indifferent to right or wrong or good and bad. it is either alive or it is not. i want to reach living human beings. people engaged with the world, excited by it, open to all its strangeness and horror and beauty and splendor.

it's sad to say, but most of the poets i come across, at least judging from their work, are not these people. so even among poets there are a precious few readers one should hope to reach. and it goes without saying that most of the general readership are all but beyond reach. (i sometimes suspect that the readers i want who are not themselves poets are people who have lost interest in poetry because there is so much of it out there that is dead.)

this all makes me sad. at the same time, though, it gives me comfort. it makes me thankful for the few readers i do have, the people that respond to my work, and whose work i respond to, some of whom i got to meet and/or reunite with at awp. that we have found each other at all, to me, is miraculous, as in the following poem...

The City Limits

When you consider the radiance, that it does not withhold
itself but pours its abundance without selection into every
nook and cranny not overhung or hidden; when you consider

that birds' bones make no awful noise against the light but
lie low in the light as in a high testimony; when you consider
the radiance, that it will look into the guiltiest

swervings of the weaving heart and bear itself upon them,
not flinching into disguise or darkening; when you consider
the abundance of such resource as illuminates the glow-blue

bodies and gold-skeined wings of flies swarming the dumped
guts of a natural slaughter or the coil of shit and in no
way winces from its storms of generosity; when you consider

that air or vacuum, snow or shale, squid or wolf, rose or lichen,
each is accepted into as much light as it will take, then
the heart moves roomier, the man stands and looks about, the

leaf does not increase itself above the grass, and the dark
work of the deepest cells is of a tune with May bushes
and fear lit by the breadth of such calmly turns to praise.

A.R. Ammons


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