Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Random at 7:40 in the morning

Of all the arts, I think the literacy rate in the U.S. is lowest for poetry. So such are the consequences:
  • 'Went to a Barnes&Noble this past Saturday and in about 2 hours in the poetry section, another poet friend and I were pleasantly shocked that before we left the section, 1 more person did come over to the smallest section in the store and peruse.
  • I've been keeping track of visitors to the poetry sections of national-chain-bookstores that I go to for about a year, and in approximately seventy visits (lasting an average of about an hour each) in probably about ten different store locations of Barnes and Border's, in six different cities, I have seen three other people, besides 2 that were with me on a few occasions, stop by the poetry sections.
  • Oh, wait, the consequences are way too vast and layered and thick to even unravel all of them, yet alone list them here, especially when I didn't get enough sleep. Anyway, it can be depressing. *

*A great cure for such disillusioning thoughts: As Laurel said on her wonderful blog in an August post, having other poets out there (like all you sweet life-jacket-like blogging poets) with which to comiserate -- and celebrate -- is like having your own "fireflies in the dark."

*Another great cure for the less-than-lovely feelings and thoughts that accompany such things: Having one of those fireflies to hold you at night, while you're watching Gray's Anatomy, while you're reading Pinsky or Flynn or Olds, while you're drinking 1/2 cherry - 1/2 Coke Slurpees, while you're reading through submissions to the literary journal you edit, and while you drink cuba libres and walk in the rain and forget about poetry for a while. I know a firefly who is really great at this, but I think I'll try to keep the identity of this very-talented-thing-with-wings to myself, lest someone else try to solicit his light. (*grin*) But I highly recommend such firefly intimacy for our endangered species.

Random at 8:15 am: Highway-toll-booth-toll collectors and poets are the kindest people on earth.

Random at 8:19 am: Ever Saskya is a great new poet who just published her first book. It is quite different than anything else you're likely to have seen, and it's wonderful.

Random at 8:39 after feeding my cats: The Best American Poetry 2006, guest-edited by Billy Collins, should be arriving on those lonely bookstore bookshelves very soon this month. 'Always something to look forward to, I think, and especially this year, I am soooo excited to see the selections given the guest editor's uncommonly accessible poetry yet somewhat illusive-to-the-pigeonholes-or-presumptions-nature. Hmmm..... 'can't wait....

Random at 841 am: I miss you Brad, one of my very first "fans." Stay warm up there and have fun standing out among all the Scandinavians. And, oh, stay away from Fargo.

Especially random at 8:45: And I miss you, innocent Owney.


LKD said...

Hmmm. I guess the reason I love poetry so much is because everyone else doesn't. (grin) Seriously, if I had to elbow my way through a crowd to get to the poetry section at a bookstore or library, I'd probably turn around and leave. But that's just me. (smile) I love having the poetry section all to myself. But hey, I'm selfish that way.

I wonder how many NON-poets visited any of those poetry sections you mention in your post. The reason I like Pinsky's favorite poem project is because alot of the folks involved are non-poets.

Almost every day I wonder if I think and care about poetry a little too much. I wonder if there isn't a better obsession in this world upon which I could pour my focus and energy. Nothing else has grabbed me quite like poetry. Nothing else compels me to create or attempt to create on a daily basis, or to think creatively and see creatively.

I read a poem last night that got under my skin and won't leave me alone. It reminded me of a poem by Laux. I'll post both below. Lemme see if I can find them. They're both small (yet huge...):


There was a clearing of yellow grass where a deer ran.
The air was still, and I remember the loudness of my pack's zipper
when I opened it for cloth and bread and a knife.
A blind of leaves hung from the apple tree. And then, when I looked up
to the other side of the meadow
I saw my dead one, my unborn, wearing her dark swamp hair
wave to me from a place on the grass. I did not know
she had gone there with me and that she would be beside me forever,
as she is now, like an animal, wanting back inside the house.

--Christine Garren

Death Comes to me Again

Death comes to me again, a girl
in a cotton slip, barefoot, giggling.
It's not so terrible she tells me,
not like you think, all darkness
and silence. There are windchimes
and the smell of lemons, some days
it rains, but more often the air is dry
and sweet. I sit beneath the staircase
built from hair and bone and listen
to the voices of the living. I like it,
she says, shaking the dust from her hair,
especially when they fight, and when they sing.

--Dorianne Laux

Ah, shit. See? Now they're both right here in front of me again. Both kept me up last night. I dragged around all day on 3 hours sleep. And now, seeing them again gives me that same feeling. Unsettled. Disturbed. Moved. In love with words.

I gotta go to bed and try to put these poems out of my head and sleep.

jim said...

It's funny but...I worked at a large independent bookstore in Michigan (before B&N and Borders took over the world) -- we had a decent poetry section, but small. Yet, the books most often stolen fomr the store were books from the poetry section...I'm guessing this was either because --

1. Poetry books are generally small and easy to slip into a shirt.

2. Poets are poor.

sara kearns said...


That poem, "Picnic," is incredible! Where did you find it? It's haunting; I can understand why it won't leave you alone. I don't think it will leave me alone for a while either. It's so.... so.... 'having just read it, I cannot, nor do I want to, analyze it at all, nor even describe it. Besides, I know you must know how I'm feeling after reading that one.

I've always liked the Laux poem. She's wonderful. In fact, you like her, you'll really want to look at Siren's issue 2!!

And, oh, the whole bookstore / how seemingly unpopular poetry is among the "masses," I know what you mean about somewhat liking that it can make you feel like you have it all to yourself. It's a struggle I have regularly -- do I love poetry enough to really want to share it with the whole world and really try somehow to get it "out there" to a broader audience, non-poets, etc? Yes, I do. But I also have a selfish "love" for it that competes with the above by getting some strange pleasure of loving something so much that mort other people view with such a foreign or mysterious look. I think my second post, "a continuation of sorts") is all about that. Ah, that struggle: in service to the poem, or in service to the poet. And I know which one I come down on philisophically and rationally, where the better angels of me come down, but emotionally? My limbic system really loves to feel like poetry's all mine sometimes -- well, mine, and a few select other people who always end up being so similar to me in so many ways, and can serve to reinforce, though through no fault of their own, that seductive idea that i belong to some special secret little group that consists of the coolest, most creative, most everything humans beings.

I guess it's like being six years old and you get the best Christmas present in the whole world, and you just love it so much that you want to call all your friends and tell everyone about it and show it to everyone, but then, when you actually see your brother receiving that same excitement from it, about it, your blood boils, and you want to lock it in your closet and never want to share it with anyone. And back and forth, and back and forth; such is a struggle for me sometimes. And though I usually come down on the side of the angels, I have to admit I do love having the poetry section ina bookstore all to myself, and, oh what a confession, but also kind of enjoy feeling a little superior about it. sshhh -- don't tell *grin*

sara kearns said...

Hi Jim,

'so glad to see a new face on my blog. i like your second assumption. a lot. how true, how true. and how funny.

That really is intersting that those were the books that were most likely to be stolen. I would like to think we poets are a really honest bunch, and considering that I know many of us are by the mere fact of what we put down on paper for the world to see, but I guess we're also so obsessive-compulsive in a way about poetry -- no, no, OCD isn't it, it's more like an addiction. So maybe it's like putting candy in front of a (economically strapped) baby.

'Going to check out your blog as soon as I wake up tomorrow -- I don't know what I'm doing up still; I'm pretty much of a corpse right now, just one that knows how to type and for some reason keeps doing it.