Converging Conversations

Conversations have converged on my desk.

In The Philosophy of Literary Form, Kenneth Burke metaphorically describes the exchange of ideas as a never ending parlor conversation to which we may contribute but never provide the last word because we must leave before the conversation ends.

I’ve been taking dips in Catherine Blyth’s The Art of Conversation since 2012.  Her light blue book seems to submerge in my book stack and resurface annually.  img_1360Constantly distracted by my life’s demands, I’ve yet to finish it, but yet I find it refreshing each time I return to it.  Blyth says, “The irony of this communication age is that we communicate less meaningfully.  Not despite but because of our dizzying means of being in touch.  So many exchanges are conducted via electronic go-betweens that, what with the buzz, bleeps, and blinking lights, it is easy to overlook the super-responsive information technology that is live-action; up-close-and-personal; snap, crackle, and pop talk–one that has been in research and development for thousands of years.”

I keep a post card with Lucia Galloway’s poem “Conversation” on my desk (pictured above).  I can’t get myself to part with it.  I reread it at least once a week, savoring its first four stanzas of “Not” and its last four of “More like.”

Yesterday, I found three lines in a Cati Porter poem which brought me such pleasure that I copied them in my quote book.

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Just the day before I had spent over an hour messaging with one of my grade-school classmates with whom I hadn’t talked in years and last night I talked on the phone for over an hour to my cousin.

Though nothing beats a face-to-face conversation, preferably over food, exchanging words with others in any way brings such a particular pleasure, as Galloway says, “like friends at the shore tossing a beach ball.”

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Encouraging Questions

I found courage on Friday when I read Juan Vidal’s “Where Have All the Poets Gone?” through a link from NPR. Having sent off my own essay, “Poetry Called Present”, for consideration by The Press Enterprise and not knowing for sure if they were going to publish it, I felt affirmed by Vidal’s passionate questioning about the causes of the dearth of political poetry in America today.

I argue newspapers should be the “the viable mainstream presence” that Vidal says poetry lacks today. In addition to the example of The Los Angles Times“opinionated poems” that I cited in my essay, I think the Washington Post‘s publication of Jabari Asim’s “‘The Talk,’ a poem inspired by Ferguson, Mo” shows the potential of regular inclusion of current-events poems by newspapers.

The number of questions in Vidal’s essay reminded me of Warren Berger’s “Chasing Beautiful Questions” in the April 2014 edition of Spirit. Berger says, “To question well and productively requires stepping back from habits, assumptions, and familiar thoughts; listening to and closely observing the world around you; being unafraid to ask naive or fundamental questions and being willing to stay with the questions as you endeavor to understand and act on them.”

I’m going to continue to question: How might I encourage poets to write more current-events poems and more news mediums to include them?