Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stop being stopped up


Grey and grousing poetry readers, by whom I mean writers of poetry without book contracts or publications of note who happen to be in the early stages of seniordom, say, 60-63 years old, like to stick to a talking point that poetry is dead. We've all had this conversation to the point where we can mount the arguments on either side of the proposition, yay or nay. There is too much bad poetry out there the self-selected judges would say, there are too many writers who have gleaned the wrong lessons from poetic tradition and give us, the readers, eager of eye  but shy of purse, a third or fourth rate renditions   of ideas of past , more brilliant generations. Do you roll your eyes when these complaints meet your ears?

 Do you wish the live complainer in front of you were a web page you could close with a left or right click of the mouse? I wouldn't be surprised if you've had similar encounters and reactions and share a distrust , distaste for and have allergic reactions to blanket statements , regardless of subject, whether it be art, politics, food, or music, or the kind of person you are attracted to.

The cure for the negativity, if there is any, is to push ahead and stay keen on the search for new poems, new movies, new books, indeed,new friends who can brighten your life and make you a smarter , better person by benefit of having conversations with them; that would be a stream that flows in two directions , and that is the miracle of that happenstance. Whitney Balliet,  jazz critic for the New Yorker from 1951 until  2007 (a very long time to be the one commenting on what musicians are creating in the moment and never to be heard quite the same way again) collected a book of his essays called "The Sound of Surprise", a title that beautifully summarizes the art of jazz improvisations and which , at least for me, crystalizes a particular philosophy I am trying to cultivate as I edge into the aforementioned  zone of elderhood, the capacity to be surprised.