Saturday, July 9, 2011

Poems - for today, not tomorrow

Sara Teasdale

I was struck by the temporary nature of poems when I was leafing through the "Best poems of 1927" in the Oxfam Bookshop in Dublin today. Of course, some recognisable names were there - Sara Teasdale, for instance - but many others are no longer read or heard of. We sometimes like to think of poems as timeless - but no, only a handful, maybe only a fingerful, will survive. 

Like the black butterfly that goes extinct when the coal mines close down (and there is no more coal dust on trees and shrubs for camoflauge) poems are vulnerable to changes in taste, thought and culture. The lesson? If you're a poet, seek publication, do readings, put your good stuff on the internet. In other words, get in front of today's audience because for the overwhelming majority of us, that's the only audience there is ever going to be.

So, today I did a reading for Seven Towers, along with two other Salmon Poetry writers, Seamus Cashman and Patrick Chapman. I didn't buy the 1927 book but I did buy books by three poets who are still alive - Seamus Cashman (That morning will come), Anatoly Kudryavitsky (Capering moons) and Alma Brayden (Prism).

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