By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
There’s one poem by Brooks I’ve been reading to groups when I speak, which is about the loneliness of being God. I’ll read some of it aloud for you. It begins, "It must be lonely to be God,/Nobody loves the master, no," and after saying why it might be lonely to be God, it ends:
Perhaps — who knows? — He tires of looking down.
Those eyes are never lifted, never straight.
Perhaps He tires of being great,
In solitude, without a hand to hold.Jon Wiener, historian: At the moment, I read some of the poetry in The New Yorker, I read poems by friends, and I occasionally go to readings by my friends, though rarely. Sometimes I also read the poems in The Nation, though I’d emphasize the "sometimes."
My friends don’t read poetry. The only people who read poetry are poets, but you don’t need me to tell you that. The New Yorker is the main place that I have any contact with the world of poetry, and sometimes there’s wonderful stuff in The New Yorker and I read it and enjoy it and don’t think about it very much afterwards. It’s just pleasure.Russell Jacoby, author (The Last Intellectuals):I couldn’t add to Dana Gioia’s article in the Atlantic Monthly ["Can Poetry Matter?"]. Only very sporadically do I read poetry. I don’t think I have anything to offer you. Christian Darren, screenwriter: I read probably 100 percent more poetry in my 20s than I do now in my 30s, which is indicative of how people are romantic in their 20s and pragmatic in their 30s. I once read a lot of romantic poetry, which I cribbed and sent on to various loves of mine as if I’d written it myself. I don’t know anyone who reads poetry or mentions it. I’d have ã to say that poetry, especially if you’re dealing within the narrow parameters of the film community, is far from the reality of what people are looking for. Even novels are far afield unless they have a concrete hook, so poetry is several steps beyond that. Glenn Goldman, owner, Book Soup: We turn over the poetry section once every 10 months, which is very slow. The section’s intensively stocked for the level of sales. It’s more of a commitment on the part of the bookstore than something designed to generate sales. I have read poetry over time, but not particularly recently. I was a big fan of Yeats and Wallace Stevens, but I pretty much exhausted that. I’d say contemporary poetry is outside my field of interest at the moment. That’s not to say that if someone interesting was brought to my attention I wouldn’t pick him up, but at the moment I’m not reading anyone.
The poetry I see falls more or less into two camps. One is the camp that sits at home and is self-taught, and the other is the people in academia who are writing for their colleagues. I think a lot of the stuff that’s in the first camp is very personal in many respects and hard to sell to the public, and the stuff in the second camp is very esoteric and difficult for the public to understand.
Our best-selling book of poetry for the first six months of the year is The Captain’s Versesby Pablo Neruda, which sold 52 copies. That’s followed by the paperback edition of Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters, which only sold 14 copies. After that is a new edition of Borges’ Selected Poems, then Rimbaud’s Complete Works, The Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám, Henry Rollins, Twenty Love Poems (Neruda again), something by Fernando Pessoa, then a gift edition of the Neruda, then another Neruda, and Rilke’s Selected Poems.Doug Dutton, owner, Dutton’s Brentwood Bookstore: Our sales figures for poetry have gone up appreciably over the last three years. I don’t know what the reason for it is. Is it Il Postino? Did that capture the popular imagination? Is it because there are a lot of readings around town that weren’t here before? There does seem to be a legitimate poetry phenomenon. Why it is beats the hell out of me. Must be the millennium. Callie Khourie, screenwriter: I’ve been to a few poetry readings, which I always enjoy more than I think I’m going to before I go. I read Emily Dickinson and Rilke, and the Spoon River Anthologyand stuff like that, just whatever I come across or what somebody turns me on to. A lot of the new poetry I read [is] in various literary digests, like The Paris Review or Nimrod, and we actually get a magazine called Writers & Poets, so I read a lot of it in there.
It’s so hard to talk about poetry, because I so rarely do it. It’s not like reading a book or seeing a film, which is a more communal thing. I read it, I think about it, and I forget about it. But I don’t really talk about it. Louise Gluck’s House on the Marshland is a fantastic book. Oh, and of course Auden’s poems blow my mind. I would find it almost impossible to pick one poem by him, because for me, each one is such an emotional experience. I also like to read Rimbaud in the bathtub. My copy is completely mildewed from sitting by the bathtub.Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s Bookworm: [The reason people aren’t interested in poetry] is a very simple one, and it’s so sad it’s almost unbearable to think about. Randall Jarrell said in A Sad Heart at the Supermarket that in the hornbook of his grandmother, the children’s primer for elementary school contained selections from the Bible, Shakespeare, The Pilgrim’s Progress, all kinds of things. If you’ve grown up with this being how you were taught to read, it’s always in your life. Children were once regularly taught to read things that would take them till they were adults to understand, and it would put them in touch with the traditions of their language. We don’t have that in America, you see, and we haven’t had it for years. We once did. My mother, a working woman all her life, remembers her high school Latin. And what she was reading in Latin was not "See Dick run." She was reading things she only began to understand when she was an adult. And she learned all this in a public school, and as a daughter of parents who didn’t speak English. Most Americans have never been put in the presence of the greatnesses of our own language in any sense — not multicultural, not classical, not dead-white-male. In fact, if you think about it, most of us grew up reading books not written by an author but by a committee whose sole concern was that you learned to read, not that you enjoy reading.