Friday, July 25, 2008

On being a lazy goat

Ange Mlinko, in a coda to her stint blogging on Harriet, wrote the other day that the "intensity of professional blogging for three to six months is exhausting, and the exposure may leave one feeling, months later, unnerved." She herself is one of the exceptions to the rule that the poetry blogosphere, with its quick, fretful disgustability and its destructive harlequins, leads to a disheartening way of talking and thinking about poetry that comes to seem somehow real, even as you tell yourself it isn't.

Well, I've just had a nicely head-clearing trip to Tennessee (my home state) and South Carolina (where I have kin), and it was refreshing to see reminders that people do experience poetry without upper or lower limits.

Viz. - About an hour outside of Nashville, a fellow proudly showed me all the poetry podcasts he gets delivered to his new iPhone, including the one we do for Poetry magazine.

- A doctor's wife who lives up in the hills told me she listens to poetry podcasts in the car, and her friend, to their mutual amazement, said she also hears them - as she rides her bike to do errands.

- In West Union, S.C., Fred M., a man long retired from a technical job at Carrier (the air conditioning manufacturer) - after an awkward conversation about Obama and the Confederate flag - asked me politely but insistently if he could have a copy I had with me of the summer issue of Poetry magazine - he allowed as how he wasn't a big poetry reader, but figured if there were magazines devoted to it, he ought to have a look.

- In a strip mall bookstore, a woman who helped run the place practically wanted to hire me on the spot (good to know I have job prospects!) after I chatted with her and a customer (who'd just finished describing a run-in with melanoma) about poems people read at funerals.


I don't mean to romanticize any of this, believe me. To be sure, a suspiciously large number of men at the Pickens Co. flea market looked a bit too much like little wizened Custers for my personal comfort. There were cases of Busch beer on the passenger-side seats of many of the pickup trucks hurtling through the foothills, and Iron Cross tattoos and regalia were ubiquitous in a way that torments someone like me with a Pynchonesque paranoia for symbology. I left the Saharas of the Bozart myself when I was about 17; they can be, like most places, deeply disturbing. I'd say, though, that if you're ever in Greenville, S.C., do have lunch at The Lazy Goat, take in the riverside and have a whiff of the enormous and impartial magnolias. Greenville's as fine a town as I have ever visited; even the austere Carl Sandburg used to hang out there late in his life, and it's where Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina, came, well, out of. Or check out nearby sun baked Seneca - which is more countrified and less done-up for company - for a taste of the older ways... have a Strawberry Stack (which is a sandwich, not a pile of pancakes) at Ye Olde Sandwich Shoppe near Ram Cat Alley. And most of all, bring some poetry with you when you go, because one way or another it will get folks talking.

I don't yet know what Fred M. thought of the poems in the magazine - he brought over some flowers and pulled pork the day before I left, and over coffee said only that he liked David Orr's piece on poetry and politics - and, well, he doesn't have a blog; I expect to find out after a while, though, and I'll let you know. As for the pulled pork, well, Fred knows more about meat than I'll ever learn in a lifetime about poetry.


mgushuedc said...

..and pulled pork *is* poetry.

As they say, if it ain't pig, it's just prose.

Ms Baroque said...

This is a great post. I always get homesick for America in the summertime and this post has made it worse.

I want to eat in all those places.