Friday, November 6, 2009

On America's still-living poets

Q: There seems to be an idea that even if poetry itself is alive and well, con­tem­po­rary poetry is rel­e­gated to near obscu­rity, and that argu­ment draws its weight simply from a visit to the local Barnes and Noble, where the poetry sec­tion is minis­cule and more or less entirely com­posed of dead writ­ers. How would you respond to this idea, and what can con­tem­po­rary poets do to enhance the status of America’s still-​living poets?

A: The dead writ­ers are great. They have passed the test of time. They rep­re­sent cen­turies to choose from, not a few decades like us living writ­ers. So it makes sense that the more excel­lent the shelves, the more books by dead writ­ers on them. Viva the dead! Let the living “enhance their status” by trying to write well.


[Actually, those shelves are not mostly composed of dead writers, from what I've seen; your mileage may vary.  The selection of living poets to be found there is worth discussing - booksellers and buyers for stores, weigh in on how you stock your poetry books! ]


Jordan said...

Cardamomaroma! I think you're right about B&N nowadays. The interviewer may be remembering the shelves at B. Dalton and Waldenbooks.

Paul said...

This is a question that seems to come up over and again. If you are a poet the only thing you can really control is your poetry. So it seems to me that the only thing you can do is to adjust the way you write to meet your audience, your reader. To many people this seems like a compromise, the have some pure vision of what their poetry should be. To them, I say, fair enough, but don't complain that not enough people are reading it.