Thursday, March 05, 2009

Let's Talk Poetry: Part Two

I read Ford Maddox Ford's list of 'books one must read' and found it to be a bit lacking, so I went about creating my own list. Poetry books quickly found their way to the top of the list.

Pound's Cantos
William Carlos Williams' Selected Poems published by New Directions
Baudelaire in the original French
Lowell's Life Studies and Berryman's Dream Songs
Ginsberg's Fall of America
Anything by Susan Howe
Kenneth Patchen's Journal of Albion Moonlight
Everything I could find by Robert Creeley
Rilke's Duino Elegies

I read constantly and I start to write. I've recently read some of my early poems and they look at best like something bearing more resemblance to rock-n-roll lyrics than to Modern poesy. (Not that there's anything wrong with that! But it bears mentioning...)

I continued writing, occasionally publishing a few things here and there in little local zines and college papers. It wasn't until around 1997 and owning my first real computer that I really started taking my own writing of poetry as seriously as my reading of it.

For one thing, I'd always preferred typing to handwriting, so the computer made sense to me as a tool. Secondly, I am notoriously disorganized. So a simple system of filing poems on the computer was an enormous help and, before long, each of those folders had grown to a book's length collection of poems. Although none of this work was up-to-snuff when I compared it to my heroes, at least seeing the folders grow -- and hence my output becoming sort of a personal library -- was motivational to me in a way that coffee-stained stacks of paper never were.

The owning of that computer coincided with my first real introduction to the Internet. And within days of first getting online, I was meeting online poets and publishers and placing my own work.

This is not to say that those poets and publishers were necessarily legit, nor is it to say that my own work was any good. In fact, like all old poetry, it sort of makes me cringe to see it now. Nonetheless, I can say that it was the responsiveness in those heady early days of the Internet (at least as far as I was concerned) that got me thinking again about publishing houses -- just as I did back in the library when I was a boy.

I began thinking about publishing houses because that's how I'd come to know poetry in the first place. And here I was online encountering poetry -- some good, most very very bad -- in a different way. be continued...

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