Poets Debate Poetry Month

Is National Poetry Month inane, insane, or inspirational? Newsweek looked at this question. Here’s an excerpt from the article, “The Cruelest (and Coolest) Month” with some words from Billy–Collins, that is:

Billy Collins, the former U.S. Poet Laureate and current New York State Poet whose books enjoy the anomalous distinction of outselling many top novels, tells NEWSWEEK that poetry is too often treated “like trigonometry with words. The implication [of a National Poetry Month] is that it’s neglected the rest of the year.” And neglected it isn’t: In 2003 alone 1,612 poetry and poetry-related books were published, according to Poets House, a poetry archive in New York. In 1994 that number was 969. Still, that doesn’t mean it always sells. “It’s just not one of our more popular categories,” writes Amazon’s Brad Thomas Parsons in an e-mail. “Some titles do pop into our Top 100 from time to time-contemporary poets like Billy Collins or Mary Oliver, or pop poetry like ‘The Prophet’ … High profile awards also help: ‘Walking to Martha’s Vineyard’ [by Franz Wright] just won the Pulitzer and spiked to No. 227 a day after the awards were announced.”

Which invites the question: What do people want from their poetry? Collins is alternately lauded and derided for writing accessible poetry that is occasionally touching and often quite funny. “I have a theory that poetry should be like an eye chart in your ophthalmologist’s office,” he says. The first big ‘E’ should be easy to read, drawing the reader in. Only then should it become increasingly “mysterious.”

The entire article is worth a read. I’ll be featuring family poetry and favorite poems during April. Why not join us.

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