Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shocked and Encouraged

I put my head in the ground a lot when it comes to politics, current events, and anything that's not my life or muse. This is what I see when I look up, especially around other poets. I was in the audience when David Word recited that thing in 2005 down in Austin at the Austin International Poetry Festival. They all cheered a standing ovation. I was there; I saw the whole thing. I saw a roomful of poets cheer mass murder by burning. I can take a boatload of pain in many different forms, but there's nothing else like fire. Everyone in that audience exploded in joy but me. If someone else in Austin heard his words, and felt like I still do about them, that person was silent or hiding. I didn't hide, but sometimes, I wish I did. I asked a few people why they support the poem and the poet, and got no straight answers. I even asked David Word; true to his poem, he wouldn't put himself on either side of the knife that convinced a crowded plane to fly into the Pentagon. However, he would turn some of us into glass or ash if it just meant pushing a button, and he got to decide the casualties. Earlier that evening, I recited "Old Gan" to the exact same audience. I wrote "Old Gan" to center around war, aggression, and forgetting why people fight when very understandable, even agreeable petty disputes become treason, betrayal, and needless death in pursuit of pride. He didn't understand the point of my poem. I made a blunt statement the next evening.

Imagine my shock when I saw this. I'm not going to declare myself in any journalist or politician's cheering section, but I'm not with David Word or direct lies to garner popular support for a re-election bid. Thunderous applause should draw suspicion: no one fixes a mortal flaw in one speech, especially when that speech crosses swords with earlier words from the same mouth. The audience of poets in Austin proved one thing to me: Poetry wrote itself into irrelevancy. I don't know what upset me more, that poets could respond so approvingly to David Word's writing, or the certainty that I'd have to convince those same people to read, understand, and appreciate mine. Perhaps some day, my vote will agree with the winner of an election: it's only happened once, and I'll let my audience guess which one for now. I'm determined to submit some more poems out for publication by the end of February: maybe things are different now than in 2005.

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