Sunday, April 10, 2005

Two Time Ted

Ok, Kooser gets a second term. Congratulations Ted.

I have been reading his book, The Poetry Home Repair Manual [it's worth reading, by-the-way] and I wanted to comment on his effort as Poet Laureate.

Kooser's support of poetry is laudable, of course that should be a minimal requirement of a Poet Laureate. I believe he is succeeding in bringing new people to poetry, and that is part of what I see as the responsibility that comes with the position.

Kooser has carved out a niche for accessible poetry. Though not the first by any means, [former Laureate Billy Collins promoted accessibility in poetry as well] Kooser I fear, is often times cheering on the sidelines for others to write the kind of poetry he likes (and writes) while leaving an impression that the vast sea of alternative poetry is the dirty stepchild that he'd rather not talk about in public.

I reality, I don't believe Ted Kooser is judgmentally putting down the rest of poetry. If I did, I would not be as kind in my choice of words. Sincerely, I believe he is trying to do what he believe is best for the art of poetry by opening a whole new frontier of readers. People who will embrace and love poetry. To that I raise my wine glass.

Perception however can be dangerous. It is here that I offer these concerns for brother Ted. As fellow poets, I believe it is important that in the broadest possible way, we should be lifting up and supporting the art of poetry as a whole.

There are poets out there who thumb their noses at accessible poetry. They are just wrong.

Do I think everyone has to like everyone's poetry? Of course not. But as practitioners of the art, I think we need to be open the encouragement of a rich diversity within the art form.

I tell you in all honesty, I am far less fearful of poetry dying anytime soon then I am people stressing that poetry has to take on this shape or that form. Optimistically, I have a great deal of faith in people that are brought into the poetry fold to grow in their interest, and like water follow the paths of least resistance to suck up what they read and like. With this in mind, growing our ranks with accessible poetry is not a bad thing. Some will sip the nectar of that which they were exposed to and that will be enough to sustain them. This will be a good thing. Others will thrust for much more... and their taste will grow and change. This too will be a good thing if allowed to happen. That is why I applaud Kooser's efforts... I just want to make sure no one is building damns around the many other lakes, rivers and oceans that people may choose to drink from.
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