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Monday, June 24, 2013
Is. Poetry. Dead. Redux.
This morning I was reading a 2009 Sally Thomas column, Is Billy Collins Killing Poetry? and wanted to leave a comment, but the comments were closed. I was not thinking about Billy Collins so much as about the survival of poetry and the need to pay attention beyond the poets thrust into our faces by--by whom? the so-called poetry establishment? by the fact that it's easier to keep repeating the same old names?
For the record, I do not think in the least that Billy Collins is killing poetry, even though I admit to having written a riposte to "Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes" that was published in The Raintown Review and later made into a video by that multi-media artist, Paul Digby. Eventually "A Fire in Ice" appeared in my collection The Throne of Psyche (Mercer, 2011.)
What itched at me about the column had to do with the comments. Sally Thomas waxes enthusiastic over one of my favorite contemporary poets, the not-long-late Charles Causley, both his poems published for children and those not. I dearly love Causley and was glad to see her piping the news. A number of people left comments, and took the chance to bash Collins about the head a bit. But not one said, "Charles Causley. He sounds wonderful. I'll look him up." In fact, not one who wrote in even mentioned Causley.
Is it the same-old, same-old? Are people quite willing to talk over and over about how dreadful contemporary (academic! dull! pretentious! etcetera) poetry is--and some of the time, they are quite right--but not willing to explore somebody of beauty and joy and music and humor and depth like Causley? Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin rated Charles Causley very highly indeed, and they were both pretty demanding readers.
Plenty of interesting poets work quietly among us. Is it possible that some readers--even those who are writers--would rather disparage Collins (or Olds or Graham, or whoever their most-disliked "popular" poet is) than do some digging for poets they might like better?
On the web, Charles Causley is little seen because of copyright issues, but he is well worth seeking out. You might like him.