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tv   Poet Laureates Robert Haas and Charles Simic  CSPAN  December 26, 2017 2:54am-4:12am EST

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daughter and i was a very good student. the one thing that i will say that's benefited me was that i never had a sense that i could -- i was always very confident in my academic capacity because i was competing with white students and was up at the top of my class and so i knew that i could do anything that anybody else could do. in that sense it was a benefit but in a negative sense, the challenge for me growing up in that environment was a sense of social isolation at times and so when i was able to leave, went off to college i was very happy to join other black students at the table when i got to wesley. >> former president of spellman college and the author of this book. why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? thank you for please join me in welcoming professor campbell to the
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stage. hello everyone. all of the sponsoring agencies and people. ind host in introducer here for today's special reading and conversation. i'm just explain that to you. them i any book fair knows a good thing when it sees one. to close out the poetry program we are back for the third incarnation of a now a regular event. with two past poets.
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today, we will hear from two writers who have managed to create major bodies of poetic work while maintaining a steady output of critical writing. literary essays. reflections on art, poetry in life. thinking is very important. for whom consciousness in all of its mysterious workings is often a primary suspect. is not to say that they reside in a purely intellectual realm. to the contrary, he has been described as a lyrical virtuoso. to the famous onion soup. while charles cynic with one of his essays. they talk about food.
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in the world. it is food for the body and nourishment for the mind. hopefully they would be largely fueled by your questions. i will introduce robert half. a native of the san francisco bay area. the national book critics. the time in materials that remain the most recent.
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justly recognized for the brilliant work. this year he has published a little book on form. that reflects the wrist on a restarted sheet -- astonishing name. that will turn ordinary readers into students a poetry. in the recurrent national landscape as well as the attraction. at the same time it wrestles with the burden into privileges of the european past. the literature in history and modes of thought from adam and eve it is one of the rare writers that the two great
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traditions east and west seem mutually engaged and equally appreciated ethically balance. where the poem or essay it is always lyrical and invigorating. if there is a wild flower that he does not know the name of it probably is not worth noticing. if there is a poetic form or idea it must rank somewhere below the limerick. please welcome robert half.
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thank you campbell is so much and thank you for being here. it's such a thrilling event. to see that many people out especially the little kids. if we had been writing for so long it's hard to know what to read anymore. what i usually do is read fairly recent things. i had been writing down the tone of voice. so the first one. they had been doing in the population survey which is pretty sketchy work.
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up on the cumberland plateau. late afternoon in tennessee. my companions are telling wildlife ecologist versions of war stories the only way he is saying you can tell a male from a female. it is by digital inspection. his wife has just left him. he rammed his hand into the fold of the biggest goddamn gator you have ever seen we have her pinned and tied it pretty good but she was trashing seriously. we were all sweating seriously and the owner was not inconsiderable. and they were up to their forearm. just a minute.
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and he pulls his hands out in his wedding ring is gone. he just stares at his hand and we just sit there staring at him because we have held that gator as long as we were inclined to do. but of course we also knew the decision was up to him. that is just listening and reporting on the world. it requires audience participation. i will tell you the title and then we have to say. praise to the brass and at .-ellipsis and the tea.
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in the soft palate and the hard palate in the vibration of the vocal cord. peter piper picked a pack of sea shells by the sea shore. you might as well say it. she sells rubber baby buggy bumpers. it is early march late afternoon there is one tiny mouth. just outside my window. the loudest in the smallest of all of the spring birds. three sweet notes perfectly spaced and then sometimes a fourth. not difficult to say but it
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requires a small increment of effort. the bare branches of the sycamore. as peer -- pure pleasure. i find it hard sometimes to say that the people in california in august stand on tiptoe to pick it that the deer can't reach. that the deer can't reach. pick right huckleberry's. the round lease. they were glowing just gold right now. maybe it is just plain.
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they have taught chimps over hundred words. and the words cannot be formed to make new concepts. but kat doesn't seem quite right. what if it's not just the range of things that they want to do. i want to say right huckleberry. it goes from branch to branch because i want too. praise to the breath in the teeth. and the lips. and to the tongue into the animal to those who first said that. here is something a little bit darker and a little longer one
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of the things if i could fight it quickly okay. one of the things i have come to understand and listening to the poetry readings is a difference between that. you can look ahead and see how long they are. with the poem you don't know. it is almost three pages long. and i will raise my hand at the end of each page so you know where you are. especially with this. you will wonder how long is he going to go on. it is called dancing. the radio clicks on the poor swollen america already up already.
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and those which commentators are debating whether or not a man who killed 50 people in five minutes or a terrorist or if they are mentally ill. because if killing large number of people is a sign of sickness you might want to begin with fire our early ancestors drawn to the warmth of it. the great booming flashes of it from the sky in the tree. ipods breath. or grass fires. so that to fashion some camp fire burning wood they must of
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felt like feeding on the crumbs of the gods of power. in the eagle that feasted on his liver. around a campfire. the tribe of malicious gatherers. they burned blue. and flared green. so simple that children could do it. i gave up a white glow. some say arabic. it was in china 2000 years ago that fireworks were invented. fire in a confined space. they knew already about the power of fire and water. one hundred bc. in alexandria. they produced the steam
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powered engine. the earliest depiction of a compact dump -- gun power weapon. the silk banner. the first one. the english used units and a siege gun. in 1503. the first battle won by the one by the power of rifles. they cut down the battle in southern italy. explosion of blood in smoke. mostly farm boys. how did guns come to north america.
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headline in the new york times. divers and discovered the santa maria. one of the lumbar to canons was stolen. in cortez took mexico. the 1679 constructed the seven cannon bark. on the first entering of the continent. the sky darkened by the terror of the birds. the chorus. as the echo of the first astounding explosion. the crew blinking as the wind of their wings springfield arsenal. rock island arsenal.
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they were shot with the rim of fire. breach loading. it was an age of tinkerers. in 1860. about 95,000. 110,000. contained, exploded. and they were throwing a sand into the fire. the machine-gun in 1914. the death in combat all site. 1914. 8,402,000. someone was counting. it must have been they could since things whistling into the air. it must have shrieked with delight.
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and the young winston churchill invented the new policy. it led to the pact of terrorizing civilians the total casualties in that were worldwide. they were throwing fans into the fire. he have his guts eaten by an eagle. on a rock. they were wondering if he was a terrorist or mentally ill. the casualties does the call to estimate. in the firebombing of tokyo. in a single night.
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the other industrial countries could not get there fast enough. contained burned, what scramble was for the rocket. the tens of thousands. they were wondering if the terrorist was crazy. if he was a terrorist maybe he was just unhappy. the other challenge afterwards was how to construct a mercy -- a machine gun. light weight complex the weapon of european imperialism to which a few month trained. it became up portable weapon. the equalizer. the insurgents fought off the greatest army in the world. so the afghans fell off the soviet army.
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in dancing. they were toting that. around is a bullet. an estimated 500 million firearms on the earth. they were dancing in orlando in a club. the relation of the total casualties. it exploded metal into the bodies of those young men. it was a beautifully made instrument. you can buy anywhere. they were dancing in the club. the spring night.
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they are still rising in wave after wave. with the vast interior of the new land. the commentator is same they require a very heavy hand. dancing they threw powder in the fire. they were dancing. [applause]. the author of more than 20 rounds of poetry.
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with the others. dozens of other accolades. and immigrated to chicago when he was 16 his childhood experience during and after world war ii it contributed to the hunting of the quasi- surreal totality. for all of the darkness the vision remains comic not because he believes the world to be composed laughter is the only appropriate response to the suffering and brutality that surrounds us. the tragedy is merely under developed comedy. in a 50 year career they have
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created their own mysterious poetic universe. i'm suddenly familiar and yet not quite hours. attended landscape of wind and snow music and philosophy at the same time full of wise cracking butchers and old ladies sweeping up dust. he possesses it seems an inexhaustible poetic opportunity. it was always surprising whether he was wondering whether they like to look at the stars or asking questions about the infinite such as the sound of the surf reminded of the cell. does it ever sit over a glass of wine and philosophy. more food for thought. please welcome them.
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[applause]. greetings. i will read a poem from the previous book. scribbled in the dark. they related a good number of very short poems let me just begin.
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it was a poem about myself king of the insomniacs a student of stealing and making bets. an old soul plane the accordion. a fly escape from the have of a man -- madman taking it on the wall. the blacksmith our grudging assistant up to renown and in visible master illusionist
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assuming the person that they present themselves to be. [applause]. i do come from in one part of my family 200 years of village priest. that's why i don't believe in god i guess. here is a short little paul at the vacancy sign there was a
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small room in the back with a bed and chair into woman who locked the door. leading there there alone was a ray of sunlight you could imagine talking to the retirement dropped in for the visit and bowling quiet as a i got ready to leave. in the week. monday comes around with a new tattoo in here it's tuesday with the nightmare on the leash.
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tapping on a windowpane thursday sipping bad a coffee served by a pretty great waitress. loss and confusion of sad and happy faces and flashing like a pinball machine in the morgue. they were ahead of the crucified christ hanging sideways in the bathroom mirror. [applause]. this is also a short one. it's called signs of the time for a mindful of this quiet it
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is a cassondra in the sight of the boarded up public library. the rows of books beyond its windows are open for years the sickly dog on the steps in the manned slumped next to him his mouth working mutely and able to recall his lines. at the end of some tragic farce. [indiscernible]
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a very early memory i guess i was about five years old i would imagine that would be 1943. the movie my childhood is an old silent movie when mother let me by the hand into a dark theater with the film have already started the dream which we happen to drop in with a young woman writing a letter and a bird sitting quietly in her cage no one is
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paying any attention to it was a city i forgot to say we trudged our way home along the treacherous streets. [applause]. when i lived on a farm i wrote
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love letters to chickens pecking in the yard when i would sit in the outhouse mending his web over my head. let's my wife took up at the mailman the neighbors were leaving too. as a ran off to the moving truck and even the scarecrow i once tried to agree so would have to listen to me. this is a short one. all the same. the woman i love as a saint
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deserves having people falling on her knees before her in the street asking for her blessing and said, here she is on the floor tears run down ran down her face. some of the short ones are so short i have no idea how long they would take to read. as a harvard bookstore in cambridge when i read a very
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short poem next. on some lady shouted out 30 seconds. i think her. i will read this poem. this is called the fleet. a little fleet loves to see two lovers undress and jump into bed they would be done without lovemaking quickly. so he can have them all to their cell. quitting their snoring only to scratch themselves. two more and then i am done.
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the one that was mentioned. the infinite. the yawns keeps yelling. is sleepy. does it miss us. does the song of the surf reminded of itself does it ever sit over a glass of wine. does it peek into mirrors at night. does it have a suitcase full of souvenirs stashed away somewhere. it is whispering sweet nothings in that year. does it enter empty churches
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to lay a single light a single candle on the altar. does it see us as a couple of fireflies. with the graveyard. does it find it quick to reach. and finally a poem called night owls. the addicts of introspection all of them quartered between body and soul. making burglar stools. to pick the lock of the mystery. and scribblers against the
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dissembling gods. mad dogs a mystic love on your way to the pound. the fellow sufferers and wretches like me the pretty ladies too. each nail to her own car -- cross. let's all get some shut eye if we can. thank you. it and technology services.
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i guess we will have a couple of large questions interesting to me. there is a microphone right there which if in a few minutes people have questions the notion is salina well open floor to questions. one question i have given that i do think it is one of the notable ones. we've been doing this event for three years now. this year if there is no matching like with like. went to poets who are famously brilliant thinkers, critics and analysts. you basically carried on that. i wondered in one sense how you decide like bob if you're thinking about guns and the
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social issues if you're thinking about the war how do you decide whether that thought in the idea that your thinking is can flow into the form of a poem. is there a simple message in the or any wisdom there are you. enough for me to say. the general. i basically know how to do one thing. and i just had always been astonished and the different
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kinds and different formal enterprises. and how you know say you had guns on your mind. or an essay or another kind a piece of writing. mostly i only write like that if i get an assignment. and sometimes it's pretty much beginning for the scrap of musical language. if i have to have a good idea it does me absolutely no good. the poems come from i don't know where. you need words to write that. i have a lot of mention of words.
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this book is about torture. with torture in our times. i don't plan in my head. i want to write a poem. with a topic. like everybody else. these things emerge with endless thinking. you start writing a poem about your grandfather where you remember him sitting in his chair. and you're right.
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they just add some other things. the poem does not work. in my case a few years. so than they realize. i have to take the grandfather out. they have emerged and to keep grandfather grandpa, sorry. and that what is left is a poem cameron wrote a book of poems that has it every year for the 20th century. how did you to turn the question back on you you will know you will have to do something with 1927 i don't
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know you are right. each year was solving the puzzle anew. and some of the poems are less rich as they might be. i like it better when i can to say when the poem starts to get that happen. i have to do certain things. that is a burden. i agree in the musicality and the language that it shows up in your head. it's almost like working through that. you don't know what the poem is based on the first idea. in the first you have to be discarded.
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i'm always ready to lie and make something up. this is how it happens. but who cares. something else has to enjoy that. but still, the question always arises that's where you constantly feel that way of aggression.
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i have read them. the very brink. about the library and so forth. i didn't start that was in mind when i started. it crept out on me. we do live in monstrous times. it's the closest thing we have two an institutional boost. do you think there is anything especially important for poetry to be doing these days.
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i've always thought in mind with the most interesting poems. during the civil war. when most of them are about the fact that her sister-in-law hurt her feelings. she is still a great one. obsessed by the war. no one can say so much greater point. what he can do. i spent years working with my neighbor who lived some of the h century. he said it is one of the
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curses for a poet is to live in an interesting time. he said what a poet really needs is a little bit of a quiet and a rabbit to feed. but i also remember he was enraged or what was described as genocide. in the time and they rask -- write about it. was kind of a blurt. we would meet on monday morning. he would have a first draft of the poem. he said to me after a few minutes you don't tell me whether you think this poem is any good. i said something like it's not
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any good. but sometimes you will be less ashamed by writing a bad poem than being silent. i say that to myself too. that was a powerful poem. are you going to set something up on the issue. they will talk to somebody. a few relatives that i had left. i listen to a lot of music.
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so i have that. it plays a role in his mythical moment. i had one more big question. it also in your in your poetic thinking. they look globally for influences and figures and that. that is whether it was cross the pacific. never looking very broadly.
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do you think the mira of walt building. the globalization and looking culturally on the border of language. everybody at the universities for example. and humanities it was the modern european literature. there is there's nothing unusual about that. as we know all of that change
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is along the subject. they are just stopping to teach foreign language in high school. and even colleges ito had to you don't have to know another language. we know absolutely nothing about that. about the south americans and so forth if you go to south america they know so much more about that. with american poetry. it is embarrassing. connects to the same room. they had been diminished down to almost nothing in the culture. the language itself is maybe
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where you would start -- start that. for the languages. in the act of translation in literature can speak even more beyond that. because of the feedback i'm not sure i'm getting the question. would i have a monitor behind us. i was guessing the question for charlie's answer. for me i think when we grew up reading the same stuff there was the same generation of critics, writers and thinkers. who set the table for us. people would say what was the poetry world like when you're growing up and i would say
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there was no such thing as a poetry world when i was growing up. it has been institutionalized. i creative writing programs. but when i innocently applied to graduate school i discovered in my little college that i went to that they have the quarterlies. i was reading that. and delmore schwartz was writing essays and stories. it all felt like part of one world. there is not the special poetry corner over there. with all of the generation of european writers you can tell they felt the same way. people they have also felt he was very clear about the fact that they were more important than writers. that it was was the class of people that read books and
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looked at art and philosophy in his case and they were having a great conversation so when i started teaching it was very clear to me that that was what i was trying to do and it still is. if they're not getting what we think were getting that's on us. it is obviously the range of things they wanted to change the world. the poets do different things and it's up to us to take what we loved. and try to blackout another generation with it. would you still point the young people. do you want to see what people are doing right now.
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i know we had questions in the audience. we went to open up to you guys. do you believe that rap is poetry. i think it's poetry. it is a wrap poetry. i'm just point to repeat going to repeat what people are saying. good rap is poetry. so i think those two yeses. with the whole subject of the great lyric writers in english and the renaissance a couple of those promises. his poems are really wonderful and survived. it's a slightly different art.
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as a cousin in the same artform maybe. they've a difference in going because the music can supply the feeling and the can play around in it. in poems we have to do both. is there another question. a number of years ago has gone through a bad patch. they started writing poetry. but then i get happy and i did not want to write poetry anymore. so my question to you is sometimes you feel like a song writer songwriter who writes poetry. .. ..
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>> >> people were insisting
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with experience so finally jim walsh. sodium said what you think of this whole thing? so whatever it was over there and did montana those that
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make those sacred objects they were so good and he did this for years until he died. [laughter] he just understood when you love something.
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>> maybe we could circle back to the issue. >> next question. >> for those that are translators does that help them to find their voice? one year ago if that happens to either of you?. >> so with those highly experienced translators does that ever influence your own development?. >>.
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>> but translation is the close as possible teaching literature 50 years but when you translate it is more than any other kind of reading it can just see how things are made. and though certain metaphors are made.
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and that was also influenced so if you can they get a lot of different traditions and they kept telling everybody. because that is how you learn about poetry. >> which languages?. >>. >> serbian and other it eastern european languages?. >> the language that i spoke in a country that does not
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exist was a dead the language. now u.s. serbia, of croatia there all separate languages but the difference is the argument spoken in massachusetts or ohio or alabama washington state were all separate languages. but for a very simple reason i wanted to be a painter.
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but i wanted somebody to be able to read it. oh i did read a beautiful poem but it was in serbian you can understand that the levy read it to you. maybe you can feel it. [laughter] in said was to make a decision what kind of decision? [laughter] anything. >> the yen translates those images. >> i don't know any other
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language well enough to even try to write a poem and a high-school actually we were assigned a poem i guess they did turn in that assignment. >> i am curious of the institution of poet laureate it is a two-part question for robert bass and charles comment is there any particular highlight from the time that you were? and a similar question when you become poet laureate is there something you may want to accomplish?. >> we have the imaginative and the fact based question
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first into being in the institution. >> you cannot equate hopper with the frame of the capital when you do that. is the ways that and know how you feel about it but i have regret except in the position of poet laureate because it did end up being very time consuming but also it was the experience you would never get to do it you get asked to do things. i spent one week in the dead
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of winter in chicago in a school run by nuns for kids that were kicked out of every other school. and when i went to washington from california oh my god what you wear your the poet laureate? i bought the expensive black overcoat because that is the uniform of d.c. and shortly after at the school there is a woman in her 20s. i thought she was nodding off. may be drugs i'm not sure and i said i cannot tell you are thinking.
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she said to me, i was looking at your code to think your world and my world. that was an interesting moment. so to put yourself in excruciating circumstances having to publicly represent poetry so that was interesting. >> it was incredibly time-consuming but it is only three years. but this is a privately endowed position. so they can hardly afford to put you up and then going
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back and forth so it was interesting because he beat a lot of people in washington and with those washington types with those public servants at 3:00 in the morning say charlie you don't get it the system is complete the broken. we are fucked. [laughter]
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and they were right. then it is like a guy walking if there is a young women or to young women they are huffing and puffing but it is regrettable they have no idea what state. so you are kind of lost. then you see a face like
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that. >> that would be stupid. [laughter] so there is so much. and then with all the interviews and with that supplement and somebody says
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so and then to interview an first of all, ended is interesting. and those are interesting questions you're asking for: so the idea that the windows anything about poetry is the abuse of that idea. that is not true.
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>> one more. >> hello. as a river bed a poem you were unable to write because the subject or form or theme?. >> yes. lots. >> i have several different levels and it makes me very nervous revising on that electronic screen but i have a large pile of starts or bits or finished but not
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interesting even if and when the pile of things mostly i don't think i could sit down to a blank piece of paper to say no right. but normally i can look through the scraps of paper. >> the same here. >> so if you pay attention maybe it is the spark to succeed the case you will fail 10 times for every ploy networks or maybe higher and then they turn out to be a good thing. >> there are three or four
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rules to say if i waited for inspiration i would have no work to do, which is the taking dictation from the angels. i also heard the short story writer that there is no rule of writing in kim provide nothing. in you to stay with it and the third one has escapes me. [laughter] there are three important rules and i can only remember to. [laughter] >> thanks for the question. [applause]
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>> they will sign books over your. [inaudible conversations]decilli joining us now on the set at the center of the festival is author and national book award finalist, edwidge danticat your most recent book is the art of death. what is the art to of the series?. >> in the little bits of them are and

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