Support local authors – Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair

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The Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair is this Saturday from 6-9 p.m. Here is a link the event’s Facebook page: Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair.

Last night I received the official author list. Here are the poets and writers who will be presenting their books to the public:

  • Dave Gourdoux: poetry
  • Justin Grimbol: bizarro fiction & poetry (Bonkness)
  • Rev. William Grimbol
  • Samira Gdisis
  • Peg Rousar-Thompson (Left of the Lake)
  • Jim Janus: poetry
  • Kate Shanahan: YA/juvenile fiction & poetry
  • Mark Giese: humor
  • Sheree Homer: nonfiction/musical biography
  • Cheryl Geroux: nonfiction
  • Matthew Mulder: poetry & prose

Also, representatives of Left of the Lake and Straylight Literary Arts Magazine will be in attendance.

The books fair features readings by Marcie Eanes, Dan Nielsen, Jean Preston, Kelsey Hoff, Nick Demske and Kelsey Harris.

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Last day of spring? Where did the time go?

UX Design Icons
It is a long week when Friday morning reveals 40 hours worked and it will be two more 10-hour days before a rest.

Still, I managed to attend the Racine Public Library’s writers group this week after a long absence. If you’re looking for a friendly group poets and writers in the Racine area, visit the group.

Also, I have not forgot about this week’s Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcast. It is in production and due to release this weekend. It features a listener’s comments, special dedication and original music between the segments by John Hayes.

So, why the busy week? Oh, boy… where do I start?

Let’s just say, designing a few software application icons and buttons that allow for best user experience is one matter. Designing dozens and dozens is a whole different critter. And that was Monday. And then Tuesday… well… maybe later.

 

Is poetry dead? or can poetry matter?

Is Poetry Dead?

Earlier this year a quiet and quite active discussion took place in a small corner of the public square. It began with Alexandra Petri’s article “Is Poetry Dead?” [1] John Deming immediately responded with an “Open Letter to Alexandra Petri.” [2] A Few days later, Richard Higgs tossed the question to a group of poets and writers. [3] The topic was actively discussed for months.

Alexandra Petri asked “Is poetry dead?” Referencing Richard Blanco, she writes, “. . . poetry, a field that may very well be obsolete.” She continues:

I say this lovingly as a member of the print media. If poetry is dead, we are in the next ward over, wheezing noisily, with our family gathered around looking concerned and asking about our stereos.

In her article she offers some harsh yet reasonable analysis: “These days, poetry is institutionalized. Everyone can write it. But if you want a lot of people to read it . . . there are a few choked channels of Reputable Publications.”

John Deming immediately replies to this “attack on American poetry” by stating that there are more than “2,000 books of poetry are published each year in the U.S.” He did not reveal where he got that number, but I suspect much of those poetry books are independent or small press publications. Further, knowing intimately how the publishing business works, I suspect that the majority of those poetry books published do not exceed press runs of more than 500 copies. With all due respect to Mr. Deming, his open letter is more a reaction to Ms. Petri’s article and less a defense of American poetry’s life (or death). He does offer a pointed question for both Ms. Petri and for poets: “. . . what kind of ‘change’ [do] you mean. Literal political change?”

Can poetry effect change?

Years ago Dana Gioia asked “Can Poetry Matter?” in his essay published in The Atlantic Monthly [4] [5] I will not go into a lot of detail about his essay because I do not want to spoil his conclusion, but I do encourage you to read it. Mr. Gioia’s question is a better question than Ms. Petri’s. Introducing great poetry in school is part of the equation as well as encouraging the love of reading books to children. Mr. Gioia offers other ways to promote the reading of and love of poetry. The Academy of American Poets published a report years ago that stated that adults who purchase and read poetry books were introduced to poetry at an early age.

Alexandra Petri does present some valid concerns. Like Ms. Petri, I have attended poetry readings where “the attendees were almost without exception students of the poet who were there in the hopes of extra credit.” For that matter, I’ve been that poet (like Charles Bukowski) [6] reading to an audience of “. . . friends, . . . other poets / and the handful of idiots who have wandered / in / from nowhere.” Mr. Deming makes some equally valid points that poetry is “far from obsolete . . .” As someone in the publishing industry I know that poetry books do sell, but not as well as fiction or non-fiction. But lack of book sales revenue does not mean that poetry books are not effective or revolutionary. How many memoirs or novels have you read that feature a few lines of poetry as an epigraph printed at the beginning of the work?

I am convinced that there is a large audience of people that do not know that they enjoy poetry. They have to be introduced to great poetry. The fact that the August 31, 2013 issue of the New York Times featured a large front page photo of the poet Seamus Heaney (printed above the fold in contrast to a small photo of the President of the United States below the fold) testifies to the relevance of poetry in America. [7] Can poetry effect change? The poem “The Names” by Billy Collins was read before a special joint session of Congress in 2002 commemorating the victims of 9/11. [8] Can poetry matter? These are just two examples that attest to it’s impact (if ever so little) in our culture.

NOTES: [1] Alexandra Petri, “Is poetry dead?,” The Washington Post ComPost, January 22, 2013, accessed January 29, 2013 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2013/01/22/is-poetry-dead/
[2] John Deming, “Open Letter to Alexandra Petri,” Coldfront Magazine , January 22, 2013 accessed January 29, 2013 http://coldfrontmag.com/news/open-letter-to-alexandra-petri?goback=%2Egde_1651527_member_208175181
[3] Richard Higgs, “Is poetry dead? Washington Post blog article, and a brilliant response,” LinkedIn Poetry Editors & Poets Group, January 25, 2013, accessed January 29, 2013 http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Is-poetry-dead-Washington-Post-1651527.S.208175181?qid=64a426de-d879-42c3-b90d-5c25b99fe691&trk=group_most_popular-0-b-ttl&goback=%2Egde_1651527_member_208175181%2Egmp_1651527
[4] The Atlantic Monthly; May, 1991; “Can Poetry Matter?”; Volume 267, No. 5; pages 94-106.
[5] Dana Gioia, “Can Poetry Matter?,” The Atlantic Monthly, May, 1991, accessed January 29, 2013 http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/poetry/gioia/gioia.htm
[6] Charles Bukowski, “poetry readings,” The Writer’s Almanac, September 11, 2008, accessed January 29, 2013 http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2008/09/11.
[7] “The New York Times pays tribute to Seamus Heaney,” TheJournal.ie , August 31, 2013, accessed September 25, 2013 http://www.thejournal.ie/new-york-times-seamus-heaney-1063056-Aug2013/
[8] “Poet Billy Collins Reflects on 9/11,” PBSNewsHour, accessed September 25, 2013 http://www.poetryfoundation.org/features/video/301

Why do poets and writers write?

Bookstore Poetry Shelf

This is a question like a sliver that gets under your skin. It is like that wood splinter you received from running your hand along a wooden fence and the painful acceptance of it to the soft spot below your thumb sends you to the medicine cabinet where you try to remove it with tweezers. But it’s too deep and requires a poultice to draw the splinter to the surface for removal. It is that way with answering the question, why do poets and writers write?

In an online discussion[1] of poets and writers and arm-chair philosophers, I offered this to the ongoing conversation: Emerson wrote that “The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty.”[2][3] This rings true as to why writers write. Years ago I heard someone say, “We are God’s poème.”[4] (Poème derives from the Latin word poema meaning poem.) I have often pondered that as an answer for why writers write and wonder if that is what Emerson had in mind when he wrote those lines. We are God’s poem, that is why we say, name, and represent beauty.

What are your thoughts on the matter? What motivates you to write? and why?

NOTE: [1] Renée, “Why write?,” LinkedIn, April 25, 2013 accessed May 6, 2013 http://www.linkedin.com/group.
[2] The quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s book Essays, Second Series from the essay “The Poets.” Here’s a link to an excerpt: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/495734-the-poet-is-the-sayer-the-namer-and-represents-beauty?.
[3] Or you can read the entire essay in this handsome collection: Emerson: Essays and Lectures: Nature: Addresses and Lectures / Essays: First and Second Series / Representative Men / English Traits / The Conduct of Life (Library of America) [Hardcover].
[4] This is a reference to a passage in chapter two of The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians. William D. Mounce writes on the matter of the original Greek text in this article, Are We God’s Poem?.