Tuesday, November 18, 2003

the LANGUAGE for the forgotten 

you may or may not know about my new project built around the idea of poets who are out of print, and forgotten. i'm simply calling it WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE POET?

the first issue is focused on the poet Frank Samperi. and anyone reading this who has something to share about the man and/or his work, can contact me at CAConrad13@aol.com

i'd say 75% of everyone who has gotten back to me so far about the project knows nothing about Frank Samperi, but have been, for the largest part, supportive of the project, and even request copies of the magazine when it finally arrives.

but this morning i received the following e-mail:

"I don't know this particular poet's work. I do think it might be a good idea to consider not describing the poet as forgotten or obscure, because it seems as if assigning them a role that's abject, whereas their lives may have been full and happy but concentrating on something else perhaps?...Just a thought...best, ...."

no, i'm not sharing the name of the poet who wrote it, that wouldn't be fair. i have mixed feelings about the message here.

on one hand i see what they are saying, but what the hell? i mean, in the very first sentence they admit that they don't even know Samperi. and by the way, Samperi was VERY devoted to his poems. VERY! you'd be searching hard to find a dozen poets as devoted as he was.

the fact is, he IS forgotten. not by everyone, but some of the e-mail responses i've been getting for this project say, "oh yeah, i liked his poems a lot, but i don't have his books anymore. wish i could help you." which is fine of course, i'm just making a point.

have i really been insensitive by trying to encourage people to read a poet whose work i've admired, but is out of print? that's just ridiculous as far as i'm concerned. in fact i feel like i'm wasting blog air discussing it.

even one of Samperi's biggest fans, Gil Ott, uses the word obscure when talking about the man and his work.

okay, now i'm getting annoyed. having worked in a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, feminist bookstore for five years, i'm pretty used to people pointing to my third eye and demanding i pose language this way and that. frankly, i feel a little weary with people, especially poets, being afraid of the language we speak and write. when someone calls me a faggot, i tend to shrug and agree at this point, you know what i'm saying? i AM a faggot! big deal! yeah, so you're right, do you want a kiss for being right Mr. Man?

how the hell can we EVER change this world of all its dim and selfishly fantastic horrors if we can't get past HOW we describe it? it's powerful to shrug at someone when they call you a faggot and say, "yeah, i am one." i know, i've done it, and it puts them in a position that usually seems foreign to them. which means they're thinking now, because something's different, who they are is now being challenged by themselves in a way, because their anger isn't getting a reaction, and they've placed an ordered idea of the world around this vocabulary of anger.

it may seem unfair of me to compare being called a faggot to being asked not to call an obscure poet obscure, but really, i'm talking about identification here and fear and fearlessness about that, and the words that make that heard.


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