By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said; The recent buds relax and spread, Their greenness is a kind of grief. Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too. Their yearly trick of looking new Is written down in rings of grain. Yet still the unresting castles thresh In fullgrown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
"The Trees" is dated June 2, 1967, 19 days before the official opening of the Summer of Love. Larkin, a librarian who looked like a potato with glasses, no doubt found the Summer of Love to be as loveless as all the other summers. ("Too often summer days appear/Emblems of perfect happiness/I can't confront," he once wrote, not exactly what girls grooving on Hendrix and the Stones wanted to hear.) But whereas Hendrix and the Stones now look painfully dated when they're taken out for a sentimental airing on VH1, "The Trees" remains as far beyond the reach of fashion as the day it was published.
Still, reading that last stanza, I heard the trees saying something else. Though it threw the meter off slightly, in my head the poem closed like this:
Yet still the unresting castles thresh In fullgrown thickness every May. Poetry is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Who reads poetry anymore? Does anyone? The Weekly asked various intellectual types — people who do, presumably, read a lot of something — if poetry gets a look-in. Here’s what they had to say:David Wilson, director, Museum of Jurassic Technology: I don’t read poetry very much anymore, even though I was pretty interested in it at an earlier point in my life. In my case, I think the reason is I have less time to read in general; I find myself working until I collapse. I miss it. It’s an experience unlike others, not one you can replace with other things. I’ve actually tried to get back into it, made a point of finding poets I thought I might be interested in, but I’ve just never engaged with it again in the way I did once. Arianna Huffington, author, political commentator: I love reading poetry. I still read Greek poets like Seferis and Cavafy — "Waiting for the Barbarians" is one of my favorite poems, and "Those people were a kind of solution" is one of my favorite lines. I also love Rumi. Right now that’s the book I’m reading. I love Words worth, too, and a lot of the English poets, probably because I lived in England.
I have never discussed poetry with anyone in Los Angeles until [this phone call]. It doesn’t mean that people don’t love it, because people don’t know that I love it — it just hasn’t come up. It came up much more when I lived in London. People talked about poetry a lot more in London, and they also quoted much more, not just poetry, but literature in general. They did it in an unselfconscious way, as part of the things they carried with them. When I was in England I read a lot of W.H. Auden and Christopher Fry. There’s a great poem of Fry’s called "A Sleep of Prisoners." I particularly remember the last stanza:
It takes so many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity’s sake?
Just recently I was writing a column on Hillary Clinton’s listening tour in New York, and I happened to have been reading a poem by Rumi where he talks about "longing for your listening silence." I didn’t quote it, though, because it would have seemed so entirely affected. You really cannot quote poetry in an American newspaper column without seeming affected.Oliver Stone, film director (message delivered via an assistant): I do read poetry when I can. Tennyson’s "Ulysses" is one of my favorites — always has been. John Rechy, novelist:I read contemporary poetry infrequently. I do very often re-read classical poetry, and in my courses I often refer to Pope, the Metaphysical poets, then moving to modern times, T.S. Eliot, Hart Crane, James Thompson. I’ve pulled away from poetry, because it seems to be lacking in what I consider the language of poetry, which is passion. I think an alienation has been created, and some tight groups of poets seem to have developed a private language that shuts me out. They’ve become citizens of their own country, as it were, and because I deal with words and the exactitude of words, when I find that an intelligent man — i.e., myself [laughs] — isn’t connecting, I refuse to blame myself! Octavia Butler, novelist:I don’t read a lot of it. My favorite right now, because it relates to some stuff I’m writing, is Gwendolyn Brooks. I guess what I like about poetry when I read it is that it says so much with so few words and says it so well.
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