Saturday, besides reading from the poetry stage at the Literary Festival, I helped staff the booth for our local chapter of the Missouri State Poetry Society. At one point, some ladies were passing by and a gentleman in the booth along side me said aloud, “Ask a poet, we have real poets here, ask anything you want to know of a poet.”
Now there are many ways I can go with this, but most of them are not good. There is for example, the notion that no one cares for the opinion of a poet on anything, much less his or her trade/avocation (the latter since we are getting real here). I was amused (the heat could have been a factor) and watched the ladies flow by.
It also occurs to me that it is not a good idea for lawyers, politicians and yes poets to solicit questions that could result in being unprepared for the consequences. I have for example, had individuals ask when certain events occurred in my life based on the presumption a given poem was autobiographical because it was written in first person and they assume poets all are narcissistic and think/write about nothing but ourselves. Of course that notion is silly. At least that is my story and I’m sticking by it.
In my mind I imagined this looking something like the Peanuts Psychiatric Booth with the sign, The Doctor Is In. Imagine my surprise when these ladies circled around, came back and stopped at the both. They picked up one of my poetry month broadsides, read it, and chatted among themselves. A few moments later, one offered that a certain member of their family had been interested in writing poetry and wondered if I could recommend any particular book that might be beneficial to someone getting started. Surprised at a reasonable question, and one that I could actually answer, I offered The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux. The ladies seem grateful and of course I was relieved.