I’m glad folks like/are liking my do-it-every-day assignment. I’ve been writing unusually badly lately, and it’s been weirdly delightful. But after I’ve fallen down the stairs every morning (so to speak) I take another hour or two to look at old poems that might need some work. And that goes really well. So does the painful and embarrassing stuff make the revising easier? If my studio is a junkyard, I seem not to be able to make that newly towed-in Volvo even turn over, but I can tune up a Chevy that’s running rough.
On another matter: a couple of poet-friends and I gave a reading uptown. It went well enough, but the crowd was reserved. Turns out that a lot of them were college students who showed up for extra credit. Afterwards, one of the other poets (Charles Harper Webb) and I were working the crowd and when people said that they’d enjoyed themselves we asked why they didn’t seem to be having a good time since we tend to read funny poems. “Well,” one girl said, “It was a poetry reading. I thought it’d be all serious.”
Little kids get read to all the time and some of that is poetry that makes them laugh. Goofy rhymes and ridiculous situations and all the rest of it. But after a certain point, most poetry does turn serious like milk, I guess, goes sour. (Look for the expiration date on your next quart of poesy.) And then, God help me, there’s high school which is where Billy Collins says poetry goes to die.
High school. The droning teacher in a warm room. The knife-through-the-heart-of-any-poem question: “What was the poet trying to say?” A tough act to follow.