The four or five people who regularly drop in on Wednesdays—and thank you for humoring me—might have noticed that it’s a bit Dead Poets Society around here.
This isn’t because I don’t read contemporary poetry or don’t care for it—I absolutely do. All the forms, traditional to experimental, are in use right now and no topic, from the holy to the profane, the mundane to the transcendental, is taboo—nothing is sacred and everything is.
It’s an exciting time for poetry and great time to be a poetry lover.
But I don’t share a lot of new stuff here, partly because it’s a lot easier to critique poets—or anything, really—when you can double check a couple decades or centuries worth of other people’s ideas. Dead people also don’t appear to care if you voice the opinion that their stuff would make Pollyanna reach for the bourbon.*
But mostly it’s because I can’t always get permission to share things like Sherman Alexie’s “Owl Dancing with Fred Astaire” or Jim Daniel’s “Dim,” and deceased poets—at least those without estates managed by foundations—are far less litigious than live ones.
This is perfectly understandable—copyright issues aside, it’s tough enough for poets to make a living without people posting their work for free—but it’s still frustrating when I get excited about something I really want to share here and legally, ethically, can’t.
I can always provide a few lines and a lot of linkage, which I’ve done when the poets prefer it or I can’t reach them or I get lazy, but I worry that you—yes, you—won’t bother to click though, or will leave it until later and forget.
So it’s nice when I can find decent videos, if only because WordPress doesn’t give me a report on video hits, so I can tell myself you all take the time to listen at least once.
But while this works really well for slam poetry, it’s hit-or-miss for stuff that wasn’t specifically written for performance.**
Or so I thought, until I was kvetching to a friend that I wouldn’t be able to share one of my favorite Matthew Dickman poems for another hundred years or until he replied to my e-mail, whichever came first, and almost immediately received an e-mail from her with the heading, “This one?”
Her reply: “It’s fun knowing things you don’t.”
But now I do know, so I listened to almost the entire Poetry Everywhere Project playlist on YouTube,*** and a few more on the Poetry Foundation site and PBS. And I found several poems I’ve been wanting to share for a really long time.
One is a Found Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye—or her son, really—that I love for reasons that will become readily apparent (pun intended):
Two words: Toe Dictionaries.
And this one is special not only because turtles are a family thing,^ but because it embodies and honors the long, slow struggles that we all experience at one time or another:
Go forth and check out the rest of the short films—and please pass along your favorites.
And if you see Sherman Alexie’s PR rep, let her know I’m still on hold . . .
*You Know Who and Ezra Pound, too.
**Except for Shakespearean sonnets, read by celebrities. Seriously, guys, try something different, would you? I’m sure Carol Ann Duffy will return your calls.
***There’s another Poetry Everywhere playlist, with animated poems, but if I play those, I don’t watch them—the words tend to distract me from the words.
^ “Hope Springs a Turtle” was one of Sunny’s first contributions to family lore. And my SIL supplied this one:
“Mom! I can spell all the words on my list! I’m a genius!!“
“But you have to life your life . . . as a turtle.”