Wherein I Explain My Poems (Subtitled "In Praise of Newspapers")
One of the biggest things as a poet is that you want the text of the poem to speak for itself. It's sort of like a joke-- if you have to explain it; it's not much of a joke. I was most active as a poet-- touring, publishing, performing here in Chicago-- from the late 80s to the late 90s, and most of that time period was decidedly non-Internety for me.
As time goes by, and I seek to digitize the stuff I've done, I was struck by how much The New York Times has been the starting point for my poems. Basically all of them-- and nearly all of the ones I love with a passion-- started as a response to an amazing, crushing article in that paper, which I've had delivered to my home for decades now.
Yes, I pay for home delivery of my newspaper. Gladly. The miracles never cease. I pick it up in the morning, and unfold the machined crease, and read something gorgeous and horrible and think to myself, "this person wrote this last night!". And while I slept, printers printed and deliverers delivered and writers waited for their bylines. And they're smelling the same fresh print as me. And I am kindred, and I love them.
Whenever I teach poetry in schools, I hold up the paper from today, and I tell them, "Read this. If you can't fashion poems in all the time in the world that are half as good as what they filed on deadline, try harder. Get better."
I honestly can't stand poetry, and can barely stand poets. They're precious and cribbed. Poems today fall into the same rote rhymes and angry cadences. It's not even worth ranting over.
Reporters are the best poets writing today.
So anyway back to my poems. I thought that, given the marvelous archive of the paper of record, I have a chance to expand on my art, and do what's really been turning me on, art-wise, for a long time-- the acts of collection and documentation through time. And besides, I think I'm an internet artist. I'm not sure what that means yet, but I want it.
So tomorrow I'm going to start a new series called, "Wherein I Explain My Poems". The news peg for me here is that I've got a whole mess of poems recorded in the mid-90s that have pleased me to hear again. And I wondered about these poems, and how they started in the papers. And thought that they were, in large part, merely derivative works that ought to be credited properly. So, onward with that.
Meantime, you can hear the whole set of poems we recorded in California-- called "Crimson Nature of Blood"