I do not read much poetry nowadays. This does not reflect my opinion of the poetry written today, or in the past. Instead, it speaks to the machinery of my interest.
I began writing poetry in high school. Poetry didn't seem to be clearly defined, once we got past the rhyme and metre logjam (thanks mr cummings). Poetry, then proved a good place to start. In typical youthful spree, I wrote a lot of poetry in high school, but I also had the quantum of smarts to want to read the work of other writers of poetry. Didn't so much get it, but I tried.
My second, and last, year at Franconia College, I enjoyed the benefits of Robert Grenier's scope and curiosity, and read with more formal directive the poets who would most influence my writing. Charles Olson and William Carlos Williams were the main excitement, but Stevens, Dickinson and Whitman folded in, as well. And so on.
I continued to read, study, after college. I found that Charles Olson, whose work intrigued me, also provided a useful path. That path included writers important to him as well as writers provoked by him. These writers gave me a solid footing, I am willing to believe. They were not all poets, as the term is used.
I credit Olson as the one who made reading history a poetic program. That statement sounds inflated. I mean it's in his poetry: What the hell is the U S of A, historically speaking? And what are the words that make it so?
I don't want to read poetry for effects. I think when Gertrude Stein writes about Americans, she embraces something larger than and just exactly poetry. Not just an instance of exhaust, but an active participation in the society that says words. I mean, how can you read Karl Marx and not say he's a poet? William Blake no kidding was, so too dear Emily, etc.
Robert Grenier published a breakthru poem of mine in This 3, which almost but not really gives me historical context. Twenty plus years later, Stephen Ellis, an Internet acquaintance, published a broadside of my poems. I had completely botched the publication part of being a poet. I had sent work out, in those long years, but it seemed always to be the wrong bugle, and probably “not my best stuff”.
The Internet gave me promise. I could backchannel someone on a listserv—Buffalo Poetics, for one—and meet poets, Stephen Ellis for one. And wow plus too: I could place my writing in public view. So could everyone else.
I don't decry the abundance served on the web. I don't think I am decrying anything. Okay maybe I decry the produce market called Attention. The Internet is big, including big with poetry's writers. Big, alas, means Facebook scale dynamics. Lick me on Facebook.
In my younger days, I read poetry to learn. Poems are intricate machines. The Olson course I took proved fruitful but I didn't, and haven't, read enough Stein. I was late to reading John Wieners, and even later to Joanne Kieger. It is kind of a random selection, how one finds one's way. I never cottoned to Eliot, and never read Auden. This isn't rocket science, but I am sure neither is rocket science.
My point resides in what we must do as human beings. I assume I am human, and that you are too. We must care. Caring may mean 17 syllables in reference to the reality of cherry blossoms or finding meaning words about the fuck all of misery in Afghanistan. I'm not here to decree. I believe that the poem is a mechanism of expansion and embrace. I also, let's get loopy, believe that there is only one poem. That poem is a human participle and it lets us say time filled by colours. Those colours are individual and well met. We will always need them, sooner than soon.
So I find history is a sheering event that can mean something. I'm not a scholar, I just want facts to smell like lemons, like Jack Spicer's own lemons, delivered by Lorca, on a Wednesday in collusion.