Rough winds do shake the darling poets of St. Louis
Yesterday St. Louis Public Radio posted a story called “Politics and Poetry? St. Louis’ next laureate waits in the wings while process is delayed.” Michael Castro, Jane Ellen Ibur, MK Stallings, and Shirley LeFlore are all fine poets hailing from St. Louis. I’ve been on the radio hosting with, or interviewing, all of them on 88.1 KDHX’s “Literature for the Halibut.” I’d consider all of them my friends. You’ll have to check with them how they feel about that though.
While reading this story I couldn’t help be reminded of the old saying “academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” By the way here’s a great blog post by the Quote Investigator about the origin of that one. The story about St. Louis’ literati is both nearly laughable and sad in a lot of ways. It’s almost like an Onion article in that it is written so seriously, so pedantically, when few people at large know or care.
Arguments like these, and readings where a poet who hasn’t spent time on the craft or the delivery talks at the audience for a half an hour, push me away from an art I’ve worked in, and on, for over a decade.
Yet it is National Poetry Month and that still stirs something in me. Early this month I went to Adrian Matejka’s reading for his new book Map to the Stars at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. This reading, through the preparation he took with his text and with his presentation, reminded me why I have spent so much of my life with this art. You can listen to him read the title poem here.
Here are three poems that always remind me why poetry matters:
Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”
Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California”
Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”
Each of these poems captures a moment in time in a few words on a single page, and they all fuse images with music. Maybe this is worth arguing about after all.