Poetry is one of the most accessible of the arts―it’s easy to get to, there are many opportunities, often free―and yet we often forget to give a listen or secretly avoid it, pretending we’re just too busy, all the while thinking poetry is for other people.
Maybe we think it’s too obscure, that the references will fly over our heads, and that the imagery will be dark. Often it is. And then we run screaming (in our heads) from what we perceive to be the pounding on our brains of poets trying to tell us what we should think and feel about things we often have no thoughts or feelings of our own about. If we said so out loud, we would no doubt sound stupid. Because poetry, as we all know, is for smart, serious people. And while we are all smart, serious people, when we want to have a good time, poetry is not the first thing (or even the sixth thing) we think of.
Let’s rethink that.
Former Poet Laureate (2001-2003) Billy Collins wrote hilarious poems like ‘The Revenant,’ about his deceased dog’s opinion of his former owners (“I never liked you”), and my personal favorite, ‘the Lanyard’ about a pathetic summer camp-made gift, which as a child, he lovingly bestowed upon his mother, firm in his belief it made up for all she had given him to that point.
Collins, who is also former New York State Poet (2004-2006) once thought that poetry ought to be inscrutable. He professed to committing “deliberate acts of obscurity” devout in his belief in “the connection between difficulty and value”. Okay, so maybe this is why many of us turn away from poetry, because the poems themselves are inaccessible to the average person. But just as many poets bring the world right up to your window and let you sniff for yourself. They entertain and engage us, increasingly blurring the line between poetry and stand-up comedy.
So now’s your chance to enjoy sweet and spicy poetry served up on a joint mini-tour of readings by Aaron Belz and Melissa Broder this week at The College of St. Rose in Albany, (Thursday, February 24th at 7:30 p.m.), as the first of the “Frequency North” writers series programs for the 2011. The program is free, and is held on campus at the Standish Conference Rooms A & B, Events and Athletics Center, 420 Western Avenue, Albany.
If you miss that, you can catch them at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn (on Saturday the 26th at 7:00 pm) and again at the Cake Shop in New York City (on Sunday, February 27th at 5:00 pm).
Aaron Belz is a NYU-schooled poet with his own gently funny take on the serious world around us. In his most recent published collection, Lovely Raspberry, he reslices everyday conversations and unspoken feelings to serve up amusing nuances on the many ways we look at ourselves and others and, just as importantly, how we choose to say what we think. You can also enjoy his earlier work in The Bird Hoverer, and he often shares ideas that pop into his head, including new poems, on his blog, along with finished poems on www.meaningless.com.
Melissa Broder is a bitingly funny poet, whose first published collection, When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother, takes sharp and sometimes sporting aim at the many injustices of living female, being American, writing, being a poet, and just plain being human. And if Belz tends toward a culinary approach to filleting life for us so we can enjoy and indulge, Broder’s turn is more forensic, laying out the yellow tape of human nature for examination. Broder often writes on The Huffington Post, where her word weaponry can be easily appreciated. And she is just damned funny, if sometimes a little harsh.
So if you know somebody who has a fear of poetry, bring them to one of these readings for the first step in their recovery. They will thank you some day.