Monday, October 13, 2003

what are they reading these days? don't you also want to know? 

recently i went with hassen and Frank Sherlock to a Leslie Scalapino reading at Temple University. Jena Osman gave a compelling introduction, setting our minds in track for full attention, possibly even devotional attention, the introduction was simply that powerful.

at some point during the reading i was listening to Scalapino and wondered what books she had been reading when writing the poem.

then i wondered what Leslie Scalapino was reading that very morning. then when i looked around the room i was curious about what Jena Osman, Ron Silliman, Bob Perelman and Rachel Blau de Plessis were reading.

i know what hassen and Frank read because they tell me.

but there they were, these other readers, and what they had been reading earlier that day was in their heads. the books somewhere in their homes. or maybe in the cases, purses, and bags they carried. it is very hard to explain what came over me. it was savage, oh, was it? yes, it was savage, to some degree, wanting to KNOW!

of course you just ask people, no need for savagery. poets love to tell you what they're reading, they always seem to anyway.

many many good book titles have come to me from poets. often, the kinds of books which create a brand new sluice for all forms of thought and feeling to run out of your heart, and you approach the world changed.

there's so many poets out there, and they're all reading, i hope. although i have ACTUALLY met dozens of poets over the years who ACTUALLY say that they don't read poetry so that it doesn't affect? infect? their own poems, or some other incredible nonsense.

i never want to have anything to do with a poet who says this, because more than anything i value generosity, especially in poets. and there is nothing more selfish in a poet than to say that their poems are far more important than lending an ear to others. little do they realize how much they could learn JUST by reading and absorbing the tools which have been building and expanding, ESPECIALLY in our recent years here in America.

the first, and last, poetry workshop i ever attended was when i was just 18 years old. Lamont Steptoe convinced me to go to the William Stafford poetry workshop at The Painted Bride Arts Center. i didn't have any more money then than i do now, so Lamont made it possible for me to attend for free, so long as i helped set up the chairs.

when i asked Stafford, in that circle of poets, what poets he reads, he said, "i don't read poetry, i only read novels and short stories." that was it, as though instant ear plugs sprouted in my head, i wanted to hear nothing more from this man. it's fine of course for him to read whatever he wants. and it's fine of course for poets to read novels and short stories, but for him to say that he DOESN'T read poetry and ONLY reads fiction... then why the HELL should we read HIM!?

but i really want to know what other poets are reading. and i DO ask poets on occassion, in e-mails, on the phone, in person, etc. but i started to think that there were probably plenty of others out there who also wanted to know this information.

then this idea of e-mailing a bunch of poets and asking them:

YOUR NAME: one sentence reaction to the book.

the deadline for entries to this list is October 21st, day of publication. when i say publication, i'm meaning putting the list on this blog, posting it to the various poetry listservs, and direct e-mail to poets.

i've already received about 45 to 50 entries, and am BESIDE myself with excitement, researching the different titles. it's wonderful that so many have been eager to respond. it makes me very happy, and i'm glad i FINALLY thought of the idea! what took me so long!?

now i'm wanting to do this maybe twice a year? try different seasons, for instance.

tune back in on the 21st to see the list.


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