Following last week's Moonlight musings, I serendipitously encountered some more reflections on the value of poetry: a short but delightful video featuring Australian actor Jack Thompson (the son of a noted poet) and a longish, somewhat contentious article by an American Professor of English, Seth Abramson. Though they're very different, I decided to treat you to both.
I'll have to do this by giving you the links, below. I've made them big, but I really want you not to click them until you get to them. And I do want you to click them then – not before, and not later, but where I've placed them. It's intentional, even if it may seem I'm getting ahead of myself at some points, with my commentary preceding the material.
Jack Thompson (image labelled as free download)
I love what Thompson says and have no argument with it. I think you'll love it too, and find it confirming.
Seth Abramson via Creative Commons
The link to Abramson's article was posted on facebook by my old pal Thom Woodruff (aka Thom the World Poet) and after reading it I commented there:
"He does make some interesting points, particularly in the second half of the article, but I couldn't help thinking that he seems largely unaware of the grassroots where you and I live. Then I reached the end and saw that he is a Professor. Yes, that makes sense. Despite a nod to rap, remixing and such, his views are held in the context of academia, no matter how much he would like us all to break away from it. The point is, many of us never entered it, and pay no attention to any 'poetry police'. (I say 'us' because what he says is wider than American poetry.) Nevertheless, he DOES make some good points. (It's just that he seems to think no-one has discovered stuff a lot of us have been doing for ages). All in all, I'm glad to have read this, and will bring it to the attention of others, as raising points to think on. Thanks."
[By 'grassroots' I mean in Thom's case the vibrant culture of (non-academic) readings and workshops in cafés, which he has instituted in Austin, Texas and other places; in my case my involvement with online poets such as yourselves, many of whom are experimental in various ways, and certainly not constrained by current vogues. Think De Jackson, Brian Miller, Jae Rose, Shay Simmons, Annell Livingston....]
Despite my demurrals, I think the article is worth reading in full, partly because of Abramson's unusual (and to me attractive) views on defining 'poetry' and partly because of his suggestions as to how to keep it alive ... even though I don't happen to think it's dead or dying. If you can't manage the whole read now, perhaps you could do a quick scan and return to it later.
READ IT HERE.
I would be fascinated to know your responses to each of these items!
A bit of belated Googling informs me that I may have under-estimated Abramson, who is 'an American poet, editor, attorney, freelance journalist, and professor of English.' (Wikipedia.)
He is also a prolific author, as you can see at his Amazon page, where I see that he has for several years co-edited an annual anthology of 'innovative verse' called BAX: Best American Experimental Writing. Seems like he puts his money where his mouth is! And critics seem to rate his own poetry highly. I think I'll have to investigate his work and find something to share with you! But that's for another day. For now, what do you think of his opinions? And Thompson's?