Don’t ask too much of poetry


I’ve been reading about writers and poets that seem to get something like a raw deal, mockery in the press, while some, no matter how bad they speak about others and display conceited anger have books written about them in a forgiving tone. I am grateful for honest reviewers such as the ones I find in The New York Review of Books, this one has limited viewing, but they are always within its covers.

The other day I had an idea about poetry, I guess from reflecting on the articles and surveys we see that poetry is not understood, not popular in sales, etc., yet there are several magazines dedicated to poetry, and a Poetry Foundation, and of course numerous Websites of varying tenor. Many folks here on WordPress dedicate there blogs to poetry for either their individual work or for more as a cultural beat expressing their love and concern, as to in some way raise consciousness about poetry, and to educate.

My idea pertained to reading poetry. I wondered if too many people assume poetry must be read from cover to cover? I have only read one book from front to back out of determination, because the work was compelling, and I wanted to write a review about the book. Otherwise I read poetry intermittently. Open somewhere and read , flip and read some more. Take in the verse and feel how it blends with ideas of the day. Usually I get questions, or inspiration, revelation, a missing piece to a puzzle, affirmation, and can be moved to tears. Poetry seems like such a natural and vibrant essential expression that goes beyond story telling, though it can do that. Poetry combines individual and mass experience, like heart felt joy, reverie, anger, and loss, as any art form does. Pretty much anything one can say about literature can be said about poetry. So open to poetry, don’t ask too much of it. See how it can be a deep expression of conscious living and a sharing of life.

Here is a poem by Martina Newberry, a poet that always surprises me and challenges my awareness of what writing has to offer.

The Emerald Tablet of Hermes   by Martina Reisz Newberry

If you know where God sleeps,                                               it is
time to

wake him

It’s all gotten out of hand:

* the bloodletting
* the pursed lips
* the money lenders in the temples of the innocent
* the grieving.

Someone must know where God’s loamy body is hidden

I thought I’d seen light’s edge
coming up over the mountain

but was fiercely mistaken

It made me cry to be so wrong

Night blindness
you say?

Who isn’t blind in the dark?                                                    Last
light is everyone’s curse

In the dark                                   each heart beats its own
small song

Courage…                                     the rhymed/the unrhymed
line

Cross out                                                       the misplaced
phrase

Exile                                                   the crippled idea

Where is heaven?
Not in this poem you hold up to your face

Which war was it
exactly

that you wanted to be part of?

(Cross out this phrase—no—leave it)

What will you refuse?

What will you abandon?

Go ahead
chew on your leather ideals

We’ve worn freedom down                                                to a
nub

Read this again
if you dare

I’ve decided to build a fire                                                  inside
your head

and,

after I get this last line right,                                    I’ll give it to you

We’ve been wrong all along

Our impatience to make
the world in our image

has filled our eyes
with cataracts

We can only wait

* for the next gun to fire
* the next resounding thump                                                 of a
body hitting the ground

I am cursing
and,

I am crying.

I am crossing out these phrases

at the same time as I am
loving them

How is this possible?

How is anything possible?                                               I’d like
to know

Wouldn’t you?


Martina Reisz Newberry’s most recent book is Where it Goes.  She is also author of Learning by Rote(Deerbrook Editions 2012), What We Can’t Forgive, Late Night Radio, Perhaps You Could Breathe for Me, Hunger, After the Earthquake: Poems 1996-2006, Not Untrue & Not Unkind (Arabesques Press) and Running Like a Woman With Her Hair on Fire: Collected Poems, (Red Hen Press) Ms. Newberry is the winner of i.e. magazine’s Editor’s Choice Poetry Chapbook Prize for 1998: An Apparent, Approachable Light. She is also the author of Lima Beans and City Chicken: Memories of the Open Hearth —a memoir of her father—published by E.P. Dutton and Co. in 1989. She has written four novels, has been included in Ascent Aspirations first hard-copy Anthology and has been widely published in literary magazines such as: Amelia, Ascent Aspirations, Bellingham Review, Blessed Are These Hands, Cape Rock, Connecticut Poetry Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, i.e., Piedmont Literary Review, Southern Review of Poetry, Touchstone, Women’s Work, Yet Another Small Magazine, and others. She was granted three residencies at the following colonies: Yaddo Retreat for Artists, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and the Anderson Center at Tower View-Red Wing, Minnesota.

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Is there an audience of one?


Read what David Groff discusses on  Poets.org: “The Peril of the Poetry Reading: The Page Versus Performance”

Are we  “mistaking the poetry reading for the reading of poetry.”

“Sure, public poetry events bring people together, creating a community for the most intimidating of the verbal arts. They allow us to encounter poets we admire or have never heard of, connecting the printed poem with the voice and mien of its creator, and adding new dimensions of meaning to the experience the page provides. Poetry readings allow a poet to test how new work reverberates, or doesn’t. And of course, for the poetry business itself, poetry readings are a hopeful sign for an art that seems paradoxically both more marginalized and more popular, especially in a culture that gauges the worth of an art by the size of its box office, where few large publishers issue books by poets, where poetry-reviewing has mostly vanished from mainstream media, and where according to the NEA fewer and fewer people read books of any kind.” —David Groff

In this age of marketing on the internet, any average user trying to do marketing has lots of questions. Questions especially since there is no real measure of what seems at any moment to be working. It is the problem of making sure the public sees your message—times one hundred. There is, at best, competition, that on that day or hour there is another event which may draw the same people. On the Web doesn’t this issue multiply. Granted the opportunity seems greater, still there are doubts. The next question is “why” do people do what they do, why do they read what they read?

What is the market for poetry books? Is there a shortage of poets?

The question comes up in my office, “Who reads poetry or literature. Who buys poetry, and how do we find them, first of all, and then, how to engage in a civil exchange or announcement that might lead to an interest?”

So I did some searching about poetry reading and buyers, and found some interesting things which I shall share with you here.

There are very interesting sites. How many know about the woman’s list-serve at USM, right here in Maine; or The Poetry Archive dedicated to recordings of numerous poets, preserving the audio of those you may never otherwise be able to hear; or a Christian Writers site; and the new and unusual marketing of a book by telephone readings. Another suggestion that makes a lot of sense is to combine reading and signing with other types of performance like music. At an event that more can attract more than the seasoned reading goer.

The worst feeling is one of futility. Why are we doing this? When most everyone is working at their own thing, their body of work, independent publishers are doing things like putting out magazines and books of other people’s works, thereby actively creating a culture of literature and information in a community. I’ll bet for the most part it’s not for the money, but for some sense of creativity, either design or editing, putting out a product that they care about, encouraging reading and in the process increasing literacy.

We need to understand the world of literature as it is beyond the publishing corporations  (according to Thompson in Merchants of Culture, there were approximately 34 imprints; some organized by divisions; under Random House in the US alone at the time he first wrote the book, 2010)  and rather in the hands of the hundreds of independent publishers of literary books and magazines across the country.

I don’t need to tell you that having a big budget to pay trained Web masters to do the work is the cure for most ills. Those of us who go it alone or with some help, and we are grateful for any because one person cannot be everything to everybody, find the risks can come at any moment of a tired day. Saying something wrong or stupid in the eyes of the “other”, the misinterpretation of an email can lead to complete silence, or even worse, laughter. (There is nothing worse for a positive outlook than the feeling that comes from being laughed at.) Some of the best magazines and presses are operated by one or two individuals. They know the meaning of multitasking when going from design, to fulfillment, to blogging, all in one day. The internet?—since it appears obvious that when someone with lots of followers/ friends/ and group members, likes or shares something, there is potential that many more people will see the item/ the article—we need to at least give our support in that way . . . but still, until something turns into a sale, and even then, what is the indication that these are actually related. How do we even know that a paid upgrade for an item listing on a seller site or portfolio site, on the grounds that it will get greater exposure, is going to work? There are multiple theories for the success of, say advertising, floating around out there, now more than ever. We need to “Like” what we read, read books, and buy books.

Listen to Djelloul reading on this video


Here I am providing the Brent Robison video of Canvas from Brushstrokes and glances by Djelloul Marbrook. You may have seen comments about this or not, but this is a fine presentation that gives us an opportunity to hear the author read one of his poems from the new book. Enjoy. And thank you Brent. Thank you Djelloul.

Please note that there are links to radio spots and web sites on the right margin under ‘more information.’
If you don’t know about our new website, which has information about all the authors, please visit by clicking on the link. Now you can buy books directly from the catalog page.