Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Understanding People

k: now this… you wrote that magnificent email to me in reply to my email to ahmad and my goings on about prose poetry… you had all that to say about the humanity in poetry. i haven’t responded to it yet, other than saying that it made me happy.

it does not make me uncomfortable when you compare me to the poets i admire. on the one hand, it puts this tick in my brain… of course i’m not as good, not as this not as that… on the other hand it makes me feel… appreciated, understood, happy and proud.

i am interested in this idea of empathy as a key ingredient to poetry. do you think it can go both ways? you made all the point there is for the poet to write a good poem. are there good poetry audiences, though? do i like poetry more than someone else because i am more empathetic than that someone? or is all the weight on the shoulders of the poet? walt Whitman says: "To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too". is this true? i think it must be. i think we understand the poems by and/or about the people we know better than the ones we don’t.

poems are also more fun and much more exciting when they are relevant to the individual reading them. i sent you a mary howe poem. it was a message from me to you. you did the same with rohrer. that conversation through page numbers was brilliant because it forced the poems to transcend. those poems do nothing like as much work without people like you and i who play with them, who expand and contract them. that frank o’hara poem is so much more now than it ever has been because we own it for each other now.

isn’t is curious how reducing a poem to an ownership makes it greater?

i’m sure there are mountains more to be said about this topic. i’ll be honest with you though, i’m whipped out after all this. you must be too. take your time with this… i don’t even expect we’ll have finished with it all by friday. let’s take it all one chapter at a time :)

a: And it seems to me that there are two issues here: one of empathy, and one of audience. As for empathy, I do think it is important, in one way or another, however it is reached. (So preferably not in the crass Hollywood/Hallmark way). But audience... that's a good question. I remember when I wanted to do film and I was frustrated and I went to one of my heroes at the time, my philosophy/existentialism professor, and she told me, You know, it is just as important to appreciate a good movie as it is to make one. I wasn't too convinced then; and I am not sure that I am now. Though I agree that it is pointless to have a good movie without a good audience. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating a mass media approach of number crunching and satisfying the masses--I am still ultimately an elitist who believes most people are stupid and boring and not everyone is the same. I do believe in equal rights and obligations, but that is not to say that everyone is equal. And I think smart people are a minority, unfortunately. But what I don't believe is that people were better back then... That whole nostalgic argument that people were more interested and educated and refined and stuff. People have always been the scum that they are, for the most part. Under the belly of the "refined" always lay the suffering of the underclasses, etc. So, let's not get me started on that. But I do believe there is a better audience in New York, and that is why it has better art (or the other way round), etc.

So, time to go home... I never thought I'd do it! But here it is... And thank you for all your effort on Poetship; I will try not to feel bad about it (that I'm doing nothing). I do very much appreciate it.

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