Basho ….. eight haiku
Buson ….. four haiku
Emily Dickinson ….. “I heard a fly buzz when I died”
Tim Dlugos ….. At the Point
Tim Dlugos ….. July
Larry Eigner ….. “gutter”
Larry Eigner ….. “a puddle”
Henry Israeli ….. Four a.m. Eastern
Issa ….. three haiku
Matt Jasper ….. The Golden Rule
Dacia Maraini ….. in the palm of my right hand
Simon Mpondo ….. The Season of the Rains
Izumi Shikibu ….. “In this world”
a Yoruba song ….. Three Friends
Ray A. Young Bear ….. Our Bird Aegis
What happened? So few good poems? Did I stop reading poetry?
Yes. I don’t remember why. Burn out?
It’s not that I stopped reading poems entirely. I read more poetry in 1997 than most people in their lives, probably. But I did read a lot fewer than the year before and the year before that.
There have been periods where I haven’t written much poetry either. Part of it is discouragement over its lack of reception in the world. Why write if nobody cares?
Why copy out poems if it’s just effort? If there’s no consequence? I’ve thought about trying to turn my personal anthology into public anthologies, that is, to look for interest among publishers. There are publishers who print anthologies. I know because I read those anthologies. I haven’t ruled out the possibility, but I’m pretty equivocal about it. Would putting together a marketable anthology be a project that would work for me? For anybody else?
I come back to reading and writing poems, even in the absence of outside validation, because poetry has inner rewards — and one spends a lot of time inside. One wants to keep one’s inside healthy. The great outside world has all sorts of notions, many of them nice, many of them mercurial, many of them toxic. If you’ve found something that helps maintain your inner resources, well, it may not work all the time and in every circumstance, but you’ll probably come back to it.
The effort to get work out has not provided reliable reward. That doesn’t mean I don’t want my work out there, that I don’t want readers. I very much do. I have made successful efforts in the past, and I haven’t given up. One of the things I decided to do at Berkeley Zinefest on Saturday was to present myself as a creator, too. I didn’t feel up to renting a table all by myself, but when I stopped in front of someone who had, I started with my little book, Fact. I traded it for what the other writer/artist had done. Only one creator flipped through my book and handed it back as of no interest; some didn’t really look at what they were trading for but seemed to be doing it on principle. I hope everyone who got Fact feels it is of value. I am looking forward to giving attention to the work I got in the exchange.
There have been a few occasions where a poet has discovered that he or she has a poem on one of my Best lists and has thanked me. The list is one way to thank you, poets.