May Day, 2013
I hope you had a great Poetry Month, now back to the poetry grind! I hope that isn’t your reality. I know a lot of us live or have lived double lives because poetry doesn’t exactly pay the bills. (Not this Bill, at least. Ed Coletti has a blog, “No Money in Poetry,” http://edwardcolettispoetryblog.blogspot.com, so I might be on to something.) When I started writing forty odd years ago, it was for sanity &/or joy. Money really wasn’t part of the equation. When I was chosen poet laureate, the first question I got in my first interview was: how come you don’t receive any money? What seemed to be attached to this question was, why aren’t you angry? In the seventies, there was some money in poetry, not much. There were small government grants for some poets. We passed the hat more often at open readings for featured readers, though it’s still done in some places. After Reagan’s trickle-down in the eighties, most of the arts funding was gone. That was deliberate. A lot of the audience left for a while as well. (Let me say thank you to Poets & Writers Magazine for sponsoring readings to bring the audience back.) Then the arts were taken out of the schools, except for “outside” agencies like CPITS. Of course, CPITS fools them; poetry is always an inside job!
I have nothing against money & I am not angry (at least about poetry & money.) I made peace with that years ago. I have witnessed the political climate since I first was able to vote against Nixon. I have learned something about American history as I have lived through it & my world has grown. I think Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather metaphor, “It’s business, it’s not personal,” is apt. That is why I liked the energy at Michael Rothenberg’s & Terri Carrion’s 100 Thousand Poets for Change/Spring Forward Festival. Local poets performed along with poets from Santa Cruz & Los Angeles, who came up on the spur of the moment. All the arts were on display. The vibe was “it’s personal, this is not business-as-usual. Check it out.” This was change in its own write.
I do like that we’ve created special events for Poetry Month. I enjoyed all the readings of which I was a part, either as reader or audience. I recommend Larry Robinson’s “Favorite Poem” reading at Sebastopol Center for the Arts to any who has never experienced it. It is a community event. The auditorium is a bigger venue than most readings in the county, except for WordTemple which also uses the space. It was fun to read in. A lot of poets & non-poets (or poets I had never seen before) read their favorite poems by others & read them well. Some recited from memory. It was exciting!
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This month, Healdsburg Literary Guild, besides their Third Sunday Salon on the 19th, 1:30 to 3:30 pm at the Bean Affair, which features Marvin R. Hiemstra, will also hold their 14th annual Graveside Readings on Sunday, May 26th, from 2-4 pm at Healdsburg’s Oak Mound Cemetery, First & Piper Streets. I have never attended one of these graveside readings. I’m looking forward to the experience. I’ve read my work in a lot of different places, but I’ve never read at a cemetery. This reading is an open mic, you should plan to read 3-5 minutes depending on the number of readers. http://www.hbglitguild.org
Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2012-2013