Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

April 7, 2013

On Poetry: Poetry geezers write about lives

April is National Poetry Month. And Sydney Lea and I, two poetry-geezers if there ever were, are launching our e-book of essays, Growing Old in Poetry: Two Poets, Two Lives. E-Book? Autumn House Books (Pittsburgh, PA) has decided to offer it EXCLUSIVELY in this format — an experiment for them — which is kind of interesting, since we’re the geezers. We write about that a bit in the book.

So I want to think in today’s poetry column about poetry in general, but in the only way I can, from the perspective of someone who’s been writing poems, as has my good friend Syd, for over 50 years. We each have a string of books, both prose and poetry, I’ve been poet laureate of Delaware, Syd is now poet laureate of Vermont. We have good things and snarky things to say about modern poetry. Nonetheless, we love poetry.

Syd and I met in New Hampshire in 2003, at the first-ever State Poet Laureate Conference. We fanned out around the state to give readings, and Syd was my host for my part of that. We saw that we have a similar aesthetic: we want poems to appeal to real people; we want music in them. We want them to have been labored over, but, as the poet W. B. Yeats says in a poem, “Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, / Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.”

We’ve been sharing poems since then, back and forth, with deep admiration.

So what is this strange prosey-poem I offer this month? One thing that’s happened over the past few years — in all areas of art and dress and architecture and food — you name it — is what could be called hybridization. A lot of different elements mixed so that what once looked like pure “poetry” or pure “Mexican” food, or pure anything now looks like an exciting and surprising mixture.

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