Monday, April 23, 2012

Poetry Month-Richard Hoffman at Mass Poetry

Richard Hoffman spoke at the Mass Poetry Festival in Salem on Saturday, April 21. I wasn't in the audience but I was moved when I read his remarks online.

And so, “The State of Poetry.” Looking out at this room full of people, I’d say that the state of poetry, the interest in poetry, is pretty healthy. The fact that we are here at a three day poetry festival speaks for itself. And so I really want to talk about poetry, not “the poetry business.” I warned Jennifer that I would do this. I hope you will also indulge me, because the fact is that I am the wrong person to give any advice about a career in poetry. I am not a successful poet, at least not in the usual sense. Like most poets, my books are published by a small press, seldom reviewed, and never in those few publications that seem to matter. You won’t find my work in anthologies or in discussions of contemporary poetry. This is not a complaint, only a way of offering you my credentials for NOT talking about a career in poetry: I don’t have one.

But I have a life that is largely made of poetry, of the poetry of others, both the dead and the living, and the poetry I try to write. I would not exchange that life, that ongoing education, that continual growth, for anything. Poetry returns to me the things I know and have forgotten, and among those things there dwells the deepest and oldest and least distorted version of myself: that consciousness that first looked for the right words, the right nouns, verbs, adjectives — the right sounds — to make sense of the world.

Continue reading his remarks on his blog, Mnemosyne's Memes.


Mo Crow said...

thank you for posting these are good words & introducing Richard Hoffman, his thoughts mesh well with these from Mary Oliver-
"In the act of writing the poem, I am obedient, and submissive. Insofar as one can, I put aside ego and vanity, and even intention. I listen. What I hear is almost a voice, almost a language. It is a second ocean, rising, singing into one’s ear, or deep inside the ears, whispering in the recesses where one is less oneself than a part of some single indivisible community. Blake spoke of taking dictation. I am no Blake, yet I know the nature of what he meant. Every poet knows it. One learns the craft, and then casts off. One hopes for gifts. One hopes for direction. It is both physical, and spooky. It is intimate, and inapprehensible. Perhaps it is for this reason that the act of first-writing, for me, involves nothing more complicated than paper and pencil. The abilities of a typewriter or computer would not help in this act of slow and deep listening."
- Mary Oliver
Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems
via Whiskey River

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord said...

And a comment by email from Melanie with more from Mary Oliver:

Here's a quote on a faded blue paper that clings to my refrigerator:

Poetry isn't a profession,
it's a way of life.
It is an empty basket,
You put your life
into it and make
something out of that.

Mary Oliver

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord said...

Beautiful Mo. Thank you so much.

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