tv Dana Gioia on Why Poetry Matters CSPAN May 8, 2016 6:30pm-8:01pm EDT
[inaudible conversations] the lead evening if he were standing there is the fuse seats up here. welcome to tonight's conversation and on what poetry matters as part of the trinity forum we are delighted that you are here and delighted to partner with our sponsors this evening to host with fisher to be a fascinating event. if you are new to the trinity forum, we exist to provide a space in resources
for life's greatest questions in the context and those have long been assumed to be linked to our notions of truth and beauty and goodness in historically one of the most important means of contemplating and internalizing those notions with the arts and practice of poetry and through poetry that the truth was passed down and those were transmitted but over the last half century poetry has become increasingly marginalized by have broader culture to the english department say in the occasional poetry slam. but our guest tonight among
the most outspoken critics you also make a provocative and counter cultural argument for the rifle priority and is also served as a marketing executive and literary critic as well as the head of a federal agency. where you find a corporate executive in a federal bureaucrat who is also a poet? [laughter] to unpack each of those the poll laureate has spiteful collections of poetry and interrogations' of the 2002 national book award and his latest off the press 99
poems that you will acquire tonight from latin and italian and german and in 2014 the award for lifetime achievement in poetry and to have no less of an impact and in 1982 his article generated more responses than any other article published to that date as well as almost 20 years after words when it was finally knocked off on by one and that was surging single women to settle. [laughter] to published numerous books of criticism poetry at the end of the print culture and
the common language the literary anthologies are numerous in the literature for life finigan addition to that to appear in "the new yorker" and then the are times in "the new york times" book review and numerous other articles as well. as a chairman to help revitalize and reinvigorate in save one of the most embattled agencies. unanimously confirmed by the senate twice. en to those graduate students out there who are looking for a thesis topic is one that i would recommend to establish to
bring shakespeare to every congressional and all districts in the nation for returning veterans to also create poetry out loud a recitation of contest involving more than 15,000 high school students who would perform poetry also created a the largest literary program in the history of the country encourage key reading through libraries across the country and has been named and in addition to his mba from stanford also has the masters of comparative literature is a recipient of an honorary doctorate as well as a medal from the
university of notre dame and honor traditionally given to a roman catholic in recognition of outstanding service so tonight i will have an opportunity to interview then we will open it up to the most dynamic time of the questions from the audience. [applause] >> we will start from the beginning how did you become a poet? >> bad luck. i fell in love with poetry as a kid because my mother as a working-class mexican woman had gone to school of
those evil repressive days when school children were required to memorize great poland's -- poems and she would recite them and it was many years ago and so i fell in love with the magic of poetry although it never occurred to me i would be a poet that was when i was 19 or 20 cadbury good parents but they neglected to give with a private into my so richly deserved i assure dash you have faced this indignity and i was the oldest kid in a big family that had no money so that
was required that i be practical that led me to the only person in human history went to stanford business school to be a poet. [laughter] >> a frequent poet of recitation you started poetry out was a wise and so important to speak and hear it rather than read it? >> i can give you reason is the radical historical or practical. but practicalism most obvious but most people think they don't like poetry but if they hear a good poems well spoken they like it and the reason is studying poetry is that we have lost touch with that essential element it is the oldest art that is still practiced by humanity that
goes to the prehistoric existed that before was riding in the way to preserve the past traditions so the things that matter were put into a form that was moving and memorable and that allow people to remember them. it was no way of remembering it would empoverish us to forget it was essentially the same artist song as poetry has moved away from that it touches people less directly so we're in a culture right now but most people feel slightly alienated.
but oscar wilde once said man honkers borer beauty. >> one of the themes that comes up repeatedly across the collections is the power of words but also silence in what is left unsaid you have the poem is entitled and said. >> if you are a poet and if you are trees full you understand to a certain degree what can be said in words they can comply but not quite literally and if
you are a person of faith or kouprey's you are aware of the profound nature to those things that our intuitive and dead are remembered -- so as the poet you do everything you can without denying what lays beyond words. >> what comes up in your titles as god is the winner with interrogation but why is time important what you hope to explore? >> you'll you get the more you understand what i about to say that one of your primary experiences of
reality is to be mortal a human life is a linear structure of time in your natural world which repeats itself so every spring everything is new again except for you. [laughter] if you are a christian and you also believe there is the trinity and the level of assistance outside of the natural cycle so time becomes a reality and a paradox in what ponders what is important but if we were not mortal ended did not exist you would have forever and nothing would matter with that greek apology they
are immoral and they are each journal symmachus talk about the purpose of poetry at one point you said one purpose is to purify the language. what do you mean by that? >> it isn't my idea. the poet that wrote a poem the french treated him as a guide as the founding figure of symbolism to purified the language of the tribe in t.s. eliot picks up on this that the words are misused
in the tremendous of their meaning it is the responsibility of poets and we tend to take of language as intellectual but it is a way one human speaks to another the fullness of their humanity speaks intellectually and emotionally and that is what a poet does it makes to plus two equal eight because you use words in the fullness of their meaning what is said and done said and implied and suggested the older i get the more i think as the poet maya writing only part of the poems that needs to be completed by "the reader"
and as a collaborator. >> presumably there is a political component to that that political chaos is connected with the decay of language does that leave the decline of poetry is responsible? [laughter] >> not poetry alone. [laughter] but we're in the election year doesn't matter for the al is running you always hear the language misused but not just politics the to go to marketing or education every institution has a way to say things that is not entirely true the poetry like any art can be misused in the base of the poet's responsibility to use
language truthfully a powerfully to express that persius person's vision of reality powerfully if you think of the society that we're in at the moment for the individual to register his or her experience in a responsible way is an astonishing cultural power because we've mostly here the corporate and political language that has been distorted for the political concerns of that group of that institution. >> to trace some of the reasons why poetry has been so marginalized. the fairly prominent cultural role through the first couple hundred years.
why has it become relegated to the margins of the cultural? really big historical changes but for thousands of years poetry was badly taught consequently everybody loved it of which used to teach history and elocution people reciting as an experience. people were allowed to enjoy it but 90 years ago they taught as for the first time how to see poetry accurately as the new critics of his all been downhill since then. [laughter] to make analytical constructions the way it has
been taught has contributed to its decline the fact it has been institutionalized in creative writing programs the small professional groups there are brilliant to talk to one another that they collectively have lost their ability to make greater or lesser degree. and that is a lively conversation of dialect dix to contribute to end a waitress fully and accurately instead we have the plant professional poetry. you almost never see them
again a bad review because they may next the on the next promotion committee or grant committee so professional courtesy. >> so why in place you would be rarely exposed as the bible. said you would think this might have cultivated a familiarity for poetry among close readers of the bible but that doesn't seem to be the case. >> i don't think even christians read the bible enough. but then to read bill whole book of job those prophetic books are all written in verse.
but even in is services where everything is mediated with the book about reading poetry we're not denying the power but it is no substitute for the primary experience of reading great works. >> where do you see signs of hope? >> it is interesting. when we started poetry the highest national recitation in a contest, we were told it was a bad idea for three reasons. first of all, kids to not like poetry's second, it was
repressive to ask someone to memorize the poem and it was degrading to put the arts in competition this is the for dancing with the stars. [laughter] so the most complex negotiations we convinced the other ones that allow us to do one per year and then to be discovered that kids blunted and memorizing and reciting was interesting because if you give them a chance to reverse themselves in a the arts of theater and music and poetry a lot of kids like it and in competition it added a special energy.
as the audience falls into a gentle slumber but with the competition they've been for word in bring the same kind of special attention to a sporting event. when you watch it with competition were to regulating this is what i think, this is what they think and where it will end up if you have an audience of hundreds of people that will sit there for two hours so why did that kid pick that poems? it is a moment of discovery soya not sure what question i'm answering now. [laughter] but what use the is a useful energy. i think there is always help. -- hope but we are doomed the moment we cannot create the the culture we want to live bin or the society we
want to live than. it will not be done easily but the kid begin as individuals to create the things that we want to see and a lot of times with the right idea so at this .3 million high-school students to have participated in poetry all of the was predicted to fail >> you mentioned in the audience to have a great poet you need a great audience. and what guidance would you give to the potential audience members out there? >> i seem to be in the minority to believe the heart without an audience is a diminished fame.
he don't have to bring it down to the dumbest possible level but think of bob dylan he has had a conversation with his audience for over half a century audience members are most passionate when they feel they are engaged with a larger cultural exchange so i think that art horror popular art takes into account the fact somewhere another human being will encounter your work and they will indeed or not. i don't think mozart would have disagreed your shakespeare but people that respected their audience
those that do not said if a poem is any good to betty has a different life into the room. if it is a good it will have room to do different things with a different result. said to have a room big enough for a great audience. >> another form of engagement is with your original essay one of the reasons for the decline was the abysmal state of criticism in the view and rarely done and rarely done well. but one generation later.
>> has gotten worse. the only one person in america negev's bad poetry reviews a brilliant critic normally unhappy but if you have been a engaged to review a book you will portray your own reaction normally the review is next but there should be a separation between reviewer in the marketing department. >> talk about some of those but one in particular is counter intuitive one of the most important ways is that poets should these - - read and perform other
>> my favorite poet, and this is so binine and no one says this but william shakespeare. i don't know if you have not heard of him. he is a comer. pay attention. and robert frost, i think he is the greatest american poet. i love wh walton who was a british citizen and died an american citizen in austria. i like phillip larkin, a very bleak poet. let's do a robert frost poems that nobody pays attention to. correct me if i am wrong but when king david was ill, they
decided to try to spruce him up be bringing a maid to bed with him. he wrote this poem called provide provide. the witch that came (the withered hag) to wash the steps with pail and rag was once the beauty abishag, the picture pride of hollywood. too many fall from great and good for you to doubt the likelihood. die early and avoid the fate. or if predestined to die late, make up your mind to die in state. make the whole stock exchange your own! if need be occupy a throne, where nobody can call you crone.
some have relied on what they knew, others on being simply true. what worked for them might work for you. no memory of having starred atones for later disregard or keeps the end from being hard. better to go down dignified with boughten friendship at your side than none at all. provide, provide! [applause] >> since this is washington, he wrote that in response to the institution of social security. [laughter] >> certainly the finest poem inspired by social security. >> you have been considered a leader of the neoformalist movement which uses rhyme and meter which goes against academic poetry. why do you believe rhyme and meter are essential? >> let me clarify, i never
called myself a new formalist. that is what i was called. if that is what they want to call me, fine. i love rhyme and meter but don't believe poetry necessary needs to be in rhyme or meter. what i believe is if you are writing in the 21st century you should have the ability to write in any technique that exist in the english language. what kind of person doesn't want all of the resources of his or her art available? when you are writing a poem, sometimes it wants to be in rhyme and sometimes in meter and sometimes in free verse. so my poems talk one third in free verse, one third in meter without rhyme and one third in rhyme and meter. i think that is the only way to write. others don't agree. you know, the new formalist have
been accused of reactionism, political conservatism and all these things. one of these culmination they said robert frost wasn't a poet because he wrote in rhyme and meter and any definition that kicks frost out isn't a good one. american poetry is poetry written by americans. it doesn't need to be in english. so you know, it seems to be common sense. on top of that, i love the particular magic, and when you use these forms of reputation, and actually i tend to use not traditional forms so much as little forms i have invented
using elements of that. if robert frost, no surprise for the writer or the reader, and i would say no fun for the reader or the writer. >> poetry's power lies not just in the ability to hear it but the ability to read it. while you were the chairman of the nea you instigated one of the largest studies the country did on the state of reading in america. the results that you gathered were really quite depressing and found that reading as a whole was in decline, reading literature and poetry was in particular decline and reading comprehension was in decline. given this is the state of reading in american and it has only accelerate d what does that say for the future of poetry? >> let me summarize -- you know, i had to bring these results to congress so i had to keep it simple. [laughter]
>> so this elaborate hundreds pages of tables can be summed up in three sentences. americans are reading less, especially younger americans. two, which means americans are reading less well. the younger you are, the less well. and that reading less and reading less well have important consequences in the lives of individuals economically, educationally, civically, and socially. and we could demonstrate these hard statistics and studies. you weep and the second thing you do is do something positive. we created this program called the big.
the way of reading. people who read vote more, they do volunteer work, vastly higher levels, they give to charities and readers even exercise more than non-readers. and guess what? is there anybody in this room who doesn't know in a sense from their spiritual life, the transformation that occurs through reading? that is what i want to perpetuate. it is at the core of a free society. >> one of the great debates your monthly atlantic article ignited -- >> the word debate comes up. it is sord of sad, isn't it? >> was your journey that poetry would once again be part of mainstream poplar culture, if
this were to happen what would be the signs your dream is coming true? >> well, there is something really weird that has been happyening to a couple decades and i haven't written the article about it but i will give the wisdom to you. about 30 years ago, i noticed a poem would be quoted in a movie. i cannot watch tv without having to get up and write down the quotations that are happening. i think it is because this this desperate need for this and the people writing the scripts are caught in the culture -- you see this man hungers for beauty and there is a void. i began to see this and this is the difference between i wrote poety matter and now is that
there has been an emergence of poetry outside of the university. you can see it in any number of ways. you can see it in poetry slams, poetry being read on the radio, you can see it in hip hot poetry, you can see it in cowboy poetry, new formalism is mostly people that are not teachers. i go to give readings in public libraries and we get large audiences that are not academics. what is hip-hop, poetry slams, poetry outloud, have in common? it is all spoken and social. you think of the power of art when people come together and in a sense share a space and reaction it is an ex extroidinarily powerful performance.
i think what poetry is doing is recovering a little bit of its civic space even on television. >> before we hear some of your poems and turn to audience questions, close readers of your poetry realize certain themes including sin, redemption, grace and other things. has your faith affected your poetry? >> i am a cradle catholic. eight years with the sisters of providence, four years with the marions, i go to mass, i am a catholic. i am a catholic down to the tips of my toes. most of my poetry is not religious but you reflect your world view and that is we live in a fallen world, we are faced with our imperfections and we
long to transcend this, we ask for grace and redemption. you will not read it and say that is a catholic allegory but it is operating at a subconscious level. i think it is very hard to write poetry, and maybe people disagree, but using the language of faith. it is communal language. i think what we have to do if you are writing about these mysteries, the mysteriis myster existence, we have to reinvent the experience from the ground up with the vividness of discovering something for the
first time. >> perhaps you can share some of those poems. >> if you insist. i have something -- okay. i thought i would do about eight poe poems. let me begin, something going on in the next room there, not quite sure yet but i will give it a run for its money. i am from a town called hawthorn, california. who knows hawthorn? i have a couple people. it is a really, rough, working class, urban neighborhood. there is about two trees in the entire city boundaries. my parents always had two jobs
and we never took vacations. i never saw nature until i was 18. i went off to college and was in stanford and there was nature around me. this was the first time i ever experienced a spring. i was with a young lady i was in love with. unsuccessful would be the right word to use. it is about going to this apple farm. ironically it is around where i live in sonoma county. it is a love poem but a friend said dana when you write a poem about a young man and woman in a garden with an appleal it is about something else. it is called the apple orchid. this is written years later and
addressed to her. you won't remember it-the apple orchard we wandered through one april afternoon, climbing the hill behind the empty farm. a city boy, i'd never seen a grove burst in full flower or breathed the bittersweet perfume of blossoms mingled with the dust. a quarter mile of trees in fragrant rows arching above us. we walked the aisle, alone in spring's ephemeral cathedral. we had the luck, if you can call it that, of having been in love but never lovers- the bright flame burning, fed by pure desire. nothing consumed, such secrets brought to light! there was a moment when i stood behind you, reached out to spin you toward me but i stopped.
what more could i have wanted from that day? everything, of course. perhaps that was the point- to learn that what we will not grasp is lost. there is a type of religious statue in the southwestern united states. it was carved out of wood, usually by a local artisan called santos. it is the virgins and the saints. they were used for home alters or small rural churches. this is a poem spoken by a santo. the santo is a mexican statue. it has been damaged in the mexican revolution when the catholic church was outlawed. it is now in a museum. this is a poem about the
difference between a work of art that is created for devotion that is then transferred into a situation for astetic reasons. and most of the contents of museums are this way. it is called the angel with the broken wing. i am the angel with the broken wing, the one large statue in this quiet room. the staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut faith's ardor in this air-conditioned tomb. the docents praise my elegant design above the chatter of the gallery. perhaps i am a masterpiece of sorts- the perfect emblem of futility. mendoza carved me for a country
church. his name's forgotten now except by me. i stood beside a gilded altar where the hopeless offered god their misery. i heard their women whispering at my feet- prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead. their candles stretched my shadow up the wall, and i became the hunger that they fed. i broke my left wing in the revolution even a saint can savor irony when troops were sent to vandalize the chapel. they hit me once-almost apologetically. for even the godless feel something in a church, a twinge of hope, fear? who knows what it is? a trembling unaccounted by their laws, an ancient memory they can't dismiss. there are so many things i must tell god! the howling of the dammed can't reach so high. but i stand like a dead thing
nailed to a perch, a crippled saint against a painted sky. [applause] >> now, i want to do an los angeles poem which is the city in poplar imagination of beautiful people. the beautiful always seem to have life easier than the rest of us. i will not comment on the looks of the audience but you have to take that on faith. there is a certain price to beauty which is when it passes you don't develop the toughness we ugly people do. so this is a poem about that. and i wrote it in the form of a poplar song. i was writing for a jazz music
helen song and i wanted to use slang the way you do in this to get out of a poem the way elizabeth beaten wrote. pity the beautiful. pity the beautiful, the dolls, and the dishes, the babes with big daddies granting their wishes. pity the pretty boys, the hunks, and apollos, the golden lads whom success always follows. the hotties, the knock-outs, the tens out of ten, the drop-dead gorgeous, the great leading men. pity the faded, the bloated, the blowsy, the paunchy adonis whose luck's gone lousy. pity the gods, no longer divine. pity the night the stars lose their shine.
>> now this is a poem in free verse and i think one way you can use free verse, this is a washington poem called money. money, the long green, cash, stash, rhino, jack or just plain dough. chock it up, fork it over, shell it out. watch it burn holes through pockets. to be made of it! to have it to burn! greenbacks, double eagles, megabucks and ginnie maes. it greases the palm, feathers a nest, holds heads above water, makes both ends meet. money breeds money. gathering interest, compounding daily. always in circulation. money. you don't know where it's been, but you put it where your mouth is. and it talks.
[laughter] [applause] >> i want to talk about something. being a poet is a very odd business. in a lot of ways if you could even call it a business. and you learn certain things that -- poets don't usually admit. one of the things that i have learned, and i think that you sort of -- as a reader you might already know this and that is if you write a poem, to a certain degree you are creating a construction of language that has a life of its own. it is kind of like your kids when it is ready it moves away and does things you may or may not approve of. what i discovered is my poems have a meaning, sometimes which i didn't intend but it is there, and that is a sign of their strength rather than me
weakness, or i like to believe that. i want to give an example. i wrote a poem called reuni. -- reunion and it is about coming a place i you should any everybody but you don't. i wrote the poem and sent it to the editor and he said dana, this is one of favorite types of your poems, it is one of the twilight ones and i consider that a compliment. rod sterling is one of my heroes. it came out in my book and a woman i knew as a graduate came to the reading and had the poem framed and then turned it around and there was a picture of her father. she said my father has
alzheimer's and you gave me the poem which i understand how he feels. and i realized she was right. reunion: this is my past where no one knows me. these are my friends whom i can't name- here in a field where no one chose me, the faces older, the voices the same. why does this stranger rise to greet me? what is the joke that makes him smile, as he calls the children together to meet me, bringing them forward in single file? i nod pretending to recognize them, not knowing exactly what i should say. why does my presence seem to surprise them? who is the woman who turns away? is this my home or an illusion? the bread on the table smells
achingly real. must i at last solve my confusion, or is confusion all i can feel? this is a short poem. my wife and i lost our first son at four months of sudden infant death syndrome. and i don't -- probably someone in this audience has lost a child but if not you understand it changes your life. i don't want to talk about the process of lost but something that is odd and happens there after. and whenever you see a child who would be about the same age as your child you say that is what my boy would be doing, that is what my son would look like now. your child has a phantom second
existence. this is about that. i wrote this poem on what would have been my son's 21st birthday. it is called majority. now you'd be three, i said to myself, seeing a child born the same summer as you. now you'd be six, or seven, or ten. i watched you grow in foreign bodies. leaping into a pool, all laughter, or frowning over a keyboard, but mostly just standing, taller each time. how splendid your most mundane action seemed in these joyful proxies. i often held back tears. now you are twenty-one. finally, it makes sense that you have moved away
into your own afterlife. i think i will do two more poems. it is called the seven deadly sins. seven deadly sins hang out together and this is about them all going into a diner with a potential client. and just to remind you, people in this room have probably practiced all seven this week. envy, anger, gluttony, provide
and the most dangerous is pride when dante felt. seven deadly sins: forget about the other six, says pride. they're only using you. [laughter] >> admittedly, lust is a looker, but you can do better. to this cheesy dive? -- and why do they keep bringing us to this cheesy dive? the food's so bad that even gluttony can't finish his meal. notice how avarice keeps refilling his glass whenever he thinks we're not looking, while envy eyes your plate. hell, we're not even done, and anger is already arguing about the bill. i'm the only one who ever leaves a decent tip. let them all go, the losers! it's a relief to see sloth's fat ass go out the door. but stick around. i have a story that not everyone appreciates" about the special satisfaction of staying on board as the last
grubby lifeboat pushes away. and then, i will end with the most recent poem in the book. i think, one of the hardest subjects to write about is a happy marriage and it is because easy to write about a dark marriage but a marriage has a strange private quality. your spouse and you create a private language of jokes and illusions only you understand. non-verbal signals that you understand.
i know immediately at 50 feet when my wife disapproves of something and knowing that is one reason i have been married 36 years. where was -- you think of the vanishing tribes and they only have two or three speakers and when they go, the language goes, their myths and their customs and this was a metaphor for the private world that exist between the two of you. marriage of many years: translation into common speech, i recognize the musk of your dark hair. it always thrills me though i cannot describe it. my finger on your thigh does not
touch skin. it touches your skin warming to my touch. you are a language and i have learned my heart. this intimate will vanish with us. it is only native speakers. does it matter? our tribal chance, our dances round the fire, performed the sourcery we most required. they bound us in a spell that time can't break. let the young vaunt their ecstasy. we keep your tribe of two in secrecy. what must be lost, was never lost on us. [applause] >> thank you so much. thank you.
>> thank you. thank you. >> now comes one of the most interesting times of an evening conversation and we get to hear from you. we ask you keep all of your questions brief, civil, and in the form of a question. if you could raise your hand and be called on we have mics coming around. right up here in the front. >> thank you. >> you spoke about poetry moving out of the university which a number of us feel is a healthy thing. my question is do you think things like rap and hip-hop and other forms of modern poetry, if we can call it that, are indeed a healthy development? >> well, what poetry is is a
special way of thinking and rewards us with a special way of listening. it is a language and in a language you can say anything. simple things, complex things, tragic things, funny things. and i believe there is a certain power of keeping that language as broad, as inclusive, and dynamic as possible. that does -- i think actually hip-hop is an interesting phenome phenomena. here is my interpretation of hip-hop. american academics took poetry away from the common people and so they reinvented it for themselves. how can one not feel the nobility of that gesture? that being said, i don't think snoop dog is new shakespeare. it is a commercial category that
has been largely marketed to adolescent, middle-class kids with gangsta fantasies but the form of hip-hop is interesting and overtime i think it might develop into a significant art form. we have seen with hip-hop, the invention of spoken poetry. maybe this won't make be poplar but i am the first literary person who reprinted a hip-hop lyric and wrote it to artist and they said can you send us the copy and they said they never saw it written down. homer would have said the same thing. of course, it was bound and there was more writing so it would have been more complicated. but the mention of these new media for poetry is a good
thing. i think the people, in a sense, invented art form to talk about their own experiences and it is, you know, it is good. i think it is qualified and good. >> where do you go to find contemporary poetry written today today? >> it should be easy to find. nowadays, you get a lot of anthology and i don't know if that is the career. i said there is 104 american poets and it is the 104 people
in charge of creative writing departments. you have to do a lot of digging for yourself now. but the shortest way is always to ask someone who knows more than you to recommend something they really like, and you know, but i think with the demise of antholgies and honest criticism it is harder. there is another thing going on and that is the reprint cost of anthologies have become o outragious. and that is one reason why textbooks are going up so much. i am embarrassed about how much students are paying for the ones i have edited for. i think ask people whose judgment you trust or find one or two critics you seem to
trust. richard wilbur, kay ryan, david mason, alicia stalling, charles cynic, julia aberez. >> i was glad you chose for your reading to do a variety of poetry. it seems it is more poplar for publishers right now to publish schematic books of poetry. can you comment on that. >> you are so right. see, the problem is that you have a lot of people that feel they should publish poetry and aftermath of modernism is in the
2 21st-century nobody trust their taste in art because they have been told what to like. intelligent people have a response and they say here is book all about a plane that went down in alexander lesbianing and you should know what every poem is about. but the trouble seven a really good poet probably can't write 30 good poems on the same subject in a period of 18 months or whatever. shakespeare was able to do. i think variety is a sign of artistic vitality but it is rare. critics feel more comfortable because they know how to review a book if all of the poems are on the same subject especially
literary subjects. >> what do you say when someone says to you i don't like poetry, i don't understand it, and it makes me feel stupid. >> i hear that a lot. i feel sorry for them because poetry becomes a way of life like i don't like classical music. so i try to suggest for them to read one poem a day. get a book of a well known poet, shakespeare's sonnets, i would probably not stop with something that is really hard, but take house man or thomas hardy or elizabeth bishops, gwendolyn
brooks. better yet, i will recite them a poem and they will say that is good. i am not talking about one of my own poems by the way. but i think poetry has been made inexpressively boring by the way it was taught. if every time you were given a piece of music they would turn it off and say write an analysis of the cord structure people wouldn't want to hear music either. it is almost like bf skinner's negative conditioning. i think it is a common thing. the reactions is we feel if we don't like a work of art it is there problem rather than the work of art. there are very great works of art that are challenging at first.
sometimes you will come across a poem in the new yorker and it is a stinker. the problem isn't your fault but lies in the institution's judgment. >> can you tell us about a memorable poetry reading you have attended and give us detai details but . >> well there are lots of poets who write but don't read their work. there is a poet, an american who lived in england, his name was michael dawn he and he was born and raised in the bronx. his parents were irish immigran immigrants. he died at the age of 50 of a
heart attack but he was the best reader of poetry i have ever heard. he wrote a complicated meta physical foams poems but when he read them as if they were being created out of the very moment. he was able to do that while never using the musical line of it. wilbur, who god less him is alive at 95 -- richard -- was the same thing. it was the natural grace. i think poetry can sound like speech bewitched by song. that is when it is most effe
effective. kay ryan, who was poet six or seven years ago, she is the same. her poems are short and meta physical and when she speaks them they unfold. i think she is quite wonderful to. those are just examples. >> i was thinking, so richard will -- before the time being, i think el bretto and benjamin said heck no. i want to talk about if there is a distinction.
are lyrics a form of poetry and why haven't they declined like poetry? people know lyrics. >> there are a couple questions. for oden, he wrote for the time being which is one of the best poems of in the country. he called it the christmas orator but it was days long. he wrote a chorus and gave up. it is great poem and i am glad had it not been written english literature would have been a bad
if i were a poet and the year were 1600, i would be expected to write masks, anthems, and poplar songs. verse is the language and you can say anything in that language. the delima for a poet at the end of the 20th century you are supposed to write short utterances that fit on one page to be published at the bottom of a magazine. that struck me as boring. i wanted to regain ground for poetry.
i didn't read any narrative poems tonight. they are longer. i think they are the best things i have done as a poet but take 15-20 minutes to read. i am trying to recover the territory from prose. i have collaborated with a lot of musicians and it is great because you bring out a different side of yourself. if i am writing a song about a vampire it is not a side i express daily. writing dramas and songs allows you, as an artist, to try things that are different and wouldn't happen if you write a short lyric form for the page. and there is there pleasure of working with singers and dancers and directors.
i love the communal aspect of the arts. and to me it is a great pleasure. one of the nice things about musicians is unlike poets musicans are kids that learned to play with the other children. it has a natural quality versus poets who would rather be unhappy by themselves. we will take one last question right here. >> you said at the outset -- >> i am sorry to ignore this side of the audience. >> you said at the outset we are responsible for a culture in which we have a part and one of the concerns i have is what appears to be the coarsening of the language that is used in society. that is reflected on the streets and probably what you
see in the media which is film. is that a concern, what can we do or what can be done to change the course of that? >> i am starriggered by the infacility of the movie scripts you see. the dramatic reasons. if you can blow it up, why worry about contenuity. but i think the answer to this and a lot of things is we have to take it upon ourselves to embody the principles that we champion. i think as teachers, writers, citiz citizens, we need to embody
elegance as something that is fresh, immediately, accurate and dived. i think there is a kind of collapse of skill and the joy of using words to describe what life is like to us, and then i do think, it is the same way -- how do you improve morals? you start with yourself. how do you improve behavior? and i think that the power of example, the power of modeling is under recognized in our society. so we should try to write as well, teach as well, lecture as well as we possibly can because language as a social and civic importance in and of itself. we have to purify the language of the tribe.
[applause] >> as we wrap up tonight, i want to direct your attention to an invitation that is on everyone's chair and that is the join to trinity form society. as you have proudly gathered, we are trying to do something unique and something fairly counterculture in an environment that is characterized by trivially we are trying to make a forum to talk about what matters most in an environment that is hospitaliable. i will tell you about the
benefits members of the society receive our quarterly readings where we try to take a classic or contemporary piece of literature or letters that raise the questions of life and make those available to you as well as our daily what we are reading updates and monthly podcast. i will let you know our upcoming reading this summer features introductions by jerome. if you join tonight, we will provide you with a free copy of dana's book "99 poems". this is the result of all five of his collections. he has taken the best from them. they will be on sale tonight right outside the door for $24 each. dana will be around to sign those book so we highly commend those to you. hope you can join us next time.
your next event is may 23rd in this room. we are launching a series on safe and international development and mike gerson wile be our inaugural speaker and he is always not to be missed. hope you will join us for that. finally it is always appropriate to end with thanks and there are several people to be thanked. howard and roberta whose sponsorship made this evening possible. and we are delighted to have our trustee, byron smith up here, and mary joya as well. thank you for joining us, mary. [applause] gl i would like to thank my cracker jack team while they stay in the background and do an incredible job, aylssa abraham, and our fantastic
interns, and volunteers, kerry lucas who used to be an intern and photographer zach miller. really appreciate all your help. thank you, dana, and thank you all for coming, and good night. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> now on booktv, a literary tour of san bernardino, california with the help of our local cable partners time warner and charter. we spoke with council member about his desire to construct a
memorial in honor of the victims of the december 2nd, 2015 terrorist shooting in the city. >> just behind me at the intersection is a barricaded entry point where the police and sheriffs were here and no one could cross the line. this intersection here was the natural place for individuals to place their token of memory for those tragic victims of the december 2nd event. as you can see from behind me, some of the things people left
behind were obviously teddy bears, pictures, momentos, certain objects of affection for these victims. the atmosphere grew large. all four corners appeared to have mourners that were watching, waiting and praying and others were kneeling. there were members of the clergy on seen providing counseling. our city was experiencing a traumatic event. our community as a result came together with much unity. i have been of the opinion there needs to be an established memorial. i would like to rename a portion of the street to a memorial highway in honor of december 2nd and the victim and the loss of life on that day. well it provides a sense of remembrance. it highlights their lives and
what they contributed to our local community and certainly it will always be a near and dear place for us to provide a place of con serenity. our community is resilient. we have really adopted the san bernardino strong motto. our feeling as elected officials in this city is that many oufr residents and businesses have come together, united in perspective of rebuilding this city. ...