Sunday, May 14, 2006


Drumming for bears

Via Wom-po, where a discussion centered on the reticence, on the part of many poets, to call themselves poets in some social settings prompted me to break my general silence long enough to explain why I prefer the title 'student of poetry'. Granted, in the context of Wom-po, which boasts a large number of published poets, I very much AM the student, but I prefer the 'student of poetry' title in pretty much all contexts--at least when I'm the one saying it. Anyway, the discussion has been going on for I think about a week now, and following the multiple tributaries of the exchange is fascinating, BUT, one of my contributions to the discussion prompted another member of the list to post this:

"Language is a cracked kettle on which we bang out tunes to make the bears dance, when what we long for is to move the stars to pity." - Gustave Flaubert

Some kettles having larger cracks than others, to be sure, as my holding my own up to Flaubert's too readily demonstrates. This, I think, is one of those quotes that'll be with me for a while.

(A bow of gratitude to Alyssa Harad and Susan Elbe for making me aware that these words exist.)

Hi Gene,

I got involved with surely a less-sophisticated debate about this issue, with myself, when I broke Poetic Obituaries out as a separate section in my column. Before Poetic Obituaries, if a big name poet died, I would provide a link to an article about the death and life of the poet, as when Creeley died, for instance.

The idea of the separate section, came because I limit that news section to eleven articles each week. So if 8 poets died, that squeezed eight other links out of the list, or I was left with excluding a poet, because of . . . what, what criteria? Poetic Obituaries, then, is to notify the larger community of poetry lovers, that we have lost someone to that death thing, that great equalizer.

So, a 16-year-old girl, whose obituary notes that she loves writing poetry--is good enough for me. She's a poet, a poet in the big league, where she always belonged, no matter how hard we left behind would like to object.

That's the "me" winning the debate at this writing, anyway.

Oddly, I just came across that very quote for the first time a few weeks before you did-- in a sci-fi anthology of all places. Of course I posted it to me commonplace book. I don't think I will be forgetting it for very long myself.... chris
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