Glutton for punishment that I am, I’m presently following, or trying to follow, an online discussion on contemporary poetry and poetics. The participants are for the most part knowledgeable and well spoken; many are also combative; a few are downright rude, condescending, and overly proud of their education. Almost all are “practicing poets.” In other words, it’s a bunch of poets talking to other poets. Poetry readers — and in this sense I mean readers who are not also poets and who are, in my opinion, the most important, coveted readers of all — are of no real concern. And none weigh in. It’s a bit like attending a priests’ convention, if there were such a thing. While the ordained ones discuss the nature of God and the Trinity, everyone else is out living and suffering and dreaming in the real world. In this way, the priests of poetry go on about their business: they drop names, haggle over interpretations and issues of little importance, and lay blame everywhere but on themselves for poetry’s pitiful status in contemporary culture.

Personally, I would rather receive one note from a genuinely interested reader than a raft of cleverly worded accolades from poets expecting the same favor in return — not that I don’t appreciate the honest evaluation of other poets. I do, and I learn from them. But in the long run, I learn more from readers, who are often more realistic and poetic in their assessment than poets.

My own approach is simple: whenever I find a poem or poet I like, living or dead, I immediately spread the news. Life is too short to play games. That’s one reason I started this website, and, most recently, my blog, Recently Banned Literature. There is nothing sophisticated about either one. No special keys or membership are required. If you like poetry, whether you write it or not, if you like to read, if you like books and stories and literature and believe in their importance and future, then it’s simply a matter of “this house is your house.”

*      *      *

Delirium Detail:

I have no idea where my mother dug it up, but I’m looking at a photocopy of her mother’s W-2 form from 1951. According to this, she lived at 1020 West Poplar Street in Stockton, California, worked at the Commercial Hotel on Main Street, which I never knew, and earned $584.20. Federal tax withheld: $41.60.

And this unrelated note: 170,000 miles into its life and service, the transmission in my father’s old van, the one we’ve been driving since he passed away thirteen years ago, is finally going to pieces. Since replacing the transmission would cost as much or more than the van is worth, this means the time has come to park the old jalopy behind the barn, let the weeds grow up around it, and watch as it rusts its way to eternity. The trouble is, we don’t have a barn. We have a street and a basketball goal, and someone always comes along and sprays the weeds. Now, where is the poetry in that?

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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