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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Poets on Poetry: Sekou Sundiata

These are my notes from Sekou Sundiata's "Poets on Poetry" session Thursday morning at the Dodge Poetry Festival. The day had opened with Kurtis Lamkin in the Main Tent, followed by Tony Hoagland whom I had not heard of prior to this Festival. The next up in the Main Tent was Jorie Graham but down at the Braw Pond Tent was Sekou. Kurtis had mentioned him as being an influence so I decided to take the walk. It was a good choice.

Sekou talked about writing in first person plural. That is, from a personal point of view but within a larger context, a black man writing post 9/11.


He made a reference to Stirling Brown as being a major influence of his. Kurtis had done so previously.

Something about 9/11 required some "heavy lifting".

Need to rely on that irrational mysterious place, trust it, use it.

He talked of the cento form of poetry, a poem made from lines of other poems.

"Blink your eyes"

The opportunity for improvisation comes from the jazz esthetic. Form and structure analogous to a composer, they only have a clue of what is too happen.

He could not provide advice for a career as a poet. He could provide some thoughts on a life as a poet.

You have to read, immerse yourself in traditions. What is good writing only comes from reading good writing.

Part of the struggle is with the words when they fail to do what you need them to do.

Writing his poetry is an unpredictable thing. Never does a poem come all at once, he may not trust it if it did. It comes from a line, it's homeless and he tries to find a family for it.

Quoted Rita Dove, "if you can't be free, be a mystery"

Once a poem is said authorship ends, we have no control over the poem after. The words are out there bouncing around as the ideas in the people's heads.

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