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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Poets on Poetry: Mark Doty

These are my notes from Mark Doty's "Poets on Poetry" session Thursday afternoon at the Dodge Poetry Festival .
Mark opened by reading "Heaven for Paul". It took him six years to come about to write the poem after the incident had actually occurred.
He talked of asking "How can I get myself out of the way so the reader can get to the feeling (of the poem)?"
Poetry attempts to translate ideas into what had been previously unspoken.
A poem is a laser beam into an idea, a story at a moment in time. Prose (short story/novel) gets into those other areas around the idea or story. The poem is focused more so than the prose.
"Heaven's Partner" (addresses the grief around the 1994 passing of his partner with AIDS)
He told why he provides an intro to a poem at a reading when the poem as presented when published does not have the intro. The intro is necessary to provide some framework, some context to come to understand the poem relatively quickly. The intro is not provided for the published work but the reader can come back to it, and usually does, may read part, and then come back, may read it all and then still come back. The poem is understood generally not all at once. The published work allows that to occur. The spoken poem needs the extra context to help it be understood. It generally is only spoken once.
Mark talked of the pluses that order brings to a poem. The order shapes, allows the poet to bring a spotlight or place emphasis. The order is where the craftwork of poetry comes to the forefront.
Writers block occurs when you usually have too much to say. Pick up a thread, follow it, write it out, pick up just the one at a time, be patient, don't be overwhelmed.
Mark said poets are "domestically suspicious people" as they talk out loud to themselves... trying out the words, phrasings, sounds, making sense of it all.
This turns out to be an illusion. W H Auden said "poems are never finished, merely abandoned."
Mark discussed that Americans are moving more now than ever before. Good things can come from this, new (better) job, opportunity. but there is also a difference from where you were, a change, some bad things, an isolation from unknowing the new area.
We are a species who need to see images of ourselves.
Mark finds it remarkable that we can get better as we age. Stanley Kunitz wrote some of his best work when he was in his 70/80's and he was still writing when he passed away earlier this year (at 99).
"Heaven for Stanley"
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