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"Students need fine poetry" please read

The above title and following words are copied from a column written by Suzanne Fields :

The other day a teacher of a ninth grade English class at an elite private school in the nation's capital asked students who had transferred from public schools to list the poets they had studied. Several hands shot up eager to tell.When one of them said "Langston Hughes", the other hands went quickly down. Langston Hughes, a distinguished black poet well worth reading, was never the less the only poet they knew.

Gone from their classrooms were the old staples, Samuel Coolridge's "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner", Emily Dickinson's " Because I Could Not Stop For Death". Walt Whitman's " O Captain, My Captain!" These poems were once an essential part of a child's repertoire, learned before high school. Many public school students are cheated now by the politically correct, deprived of a sense of the sweep of poetry power that once made up the common cultural heritage.

Help may be on the way. Last week James Billington, the librarian of Congress, named Charles Wright as the new poet laureate of the United States, a man who thinks poetry leads to thoughtful reflection, a scarce commodity indeed in contemporary Washington. Mr. wright, a soft spoken Southerner who keeps a lock of Robert E. Lee's hair on his desk, is apolitical in a political world. He finds "the true purpose of poetry to be a contemplation of the divine- however you find it or don't find it."

Such refreshing insights could usher in a new appreciation of language, reviving an interest in the importance of the precise word in the right place at the right time for those addicted to the idiomatic shortcuts of texting. This is particularly good news for conservatives since the use of precise language conserves what's left of the best in a debased media culture where talk drives out the written word.

If the young have heard of Robert Frost, it's only because they know he read one of his poems at John F. Kennedy's inauguration, but they have no idea what he meant by "the road less traveled." Few have heard of the romantic poets.

Poets change from generation to generation, but the idea of sharing a common culture of poetry with a foundation of critical reading must remain. Poetry, whether from Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton or others is on an endangered species list in high schools and universities.

In the public square we debate the value of the Common Core but we pay scant attention to the way we deprive children of fine poetry as a means to sharpen language, stimulate imaginations and memory, and bring rigor, vigor and discipline to their writing.

"Without poetry there's just talk,"Charles Wright tells the Paris Review. "Talk is cheap and proves nothing. Poetry is dear and difficult to come by. But it poles us across the river and puts music in our ears. It moves us to contemplation." Are we listening.

* I typed this with my index finger one letter at a time from my local news paper so I expect that pretty well explains how important and relevant to we poets I think this is...........stan


but that aside . . . I did have to read the poems cited above and hated. each. of. them. And hated the Iliad before them. And I don't feel reading those poets helped me bond to my cultural heritage. I have to wonder if Langston Hughes was the only poet they were exposed to or the only poet they remembered. Those poems are good for teaching certain styles and meters and such but if I think about what was responsible for my love of poetry, and language more generally, it was exposure to excellent children's books, parental involvement and the public library system, where the poetic world is at your feet. Every child would be in terrible shape if learning were confined to the classroom.

I had considered leaving out the parts of this column with which I disagreed but then decided that doing so would be a type of censorship so I copied every word. The main reasons I posted this was because the author (who is a black lady) had the courage to rail against the political correctness which too often leads to race having more to do with recognition than talent does in some places. The implied example being the former poet laureate.
The other reason was to announce the appointment of the new U.S. poet laureate and to allow a few of his ideas to be aired.
Plus there is the way in which the loss of most poetry being taught At All in too many public schools affects the language in general. Poetry IS more than nursery rhymes or chopped prose , it's a way to hone language skills by displaying the difference between an acceptable word and the perfect word.
It's not very often that a column about poetry gets on an op-ed page...........stan

author comment

Thank you Stan for posting this Blog. It does bring into focus the fact "only change is permanent". We would be rotting if there was no evolution in poetry , in terms of its forms, preferences, innovation, reflections of mind sets, mode of expression, language use and so on, in a world which is changing so very fast. What may not change though is the instinct to express and poetry could very well be one of them. Your blog certainly helped me in taking a re-look at poetry in the present context. Having said that, it does not in any way diminish the richness of poetry of legendary poets who have left a legacy for all generations to enrich their experience of poetry like aged wine...

Best regards,

raj (sublime_ocean)

Any advance in just about anything is built upon the work of earlier people. Poetry is no different. Hopefully poetry will make a comeback here in public schools and if so, it will be via teaching the works of the romantics as well as the newer, often more relevant, poets.......stan

author comment

It would be nice to think a poetry comeback might happen, but with the continuing 'Dumbing Down' of America, I really don't see it happening. Kids now-a-days think a classic poet is somebody like Ice T or Puff Daddy, not Frost or Dickinson! This all started back in the late 70's or early 80's and has now progressed to a point where I doubt it can be stopped. But, what the hell, us old farts can always keep trying, I guess!

It's for damn sure that if we surrender to mediocrity that the dumbing down will continue. I have only had the chance to read one of this guy's poems and although it's not a rhyming classic it Is good free verse as opposed to clipped prose lol........stan

author comment

Not having any prior training, or ever being a reader of poetry, one of the best places I found was Neopoet and a few other places by just talking to people and having a singing soul.
The classics can still be taught as part of English in schools or where ever, but when you teach poetry then it should be a subject of its own beauty.
It is a language spoken by I would think all the Mothers of the Earth, by religious people in their singing, and oh so many ways of just being.
I learned one poem when I was at school that was
"Home thoughts from abroad"
The other rhymes I was taught were the odd prayer and passage from the Bible but the poem and nursery rhymes have stayed with me always more so than the passages from books.
On Neopoet we have encompassed many people from all over the world, it is a pity we don't expand in all places.
Nigeria has a few good poets so why are they not gathering more of their fellow children to come talk to us, but we cannot say much, in the UK there are a few and they very rarely talk to each other, then the States the same, we are so separated by nothing.
This is a beautiful language we speak here yet we put up our fences and sit behind them.
One reason why I wanted a book each year from Neopoet to be brought out, it crosses all international boundaries and is a future we can only dream of, yet at the same time we stay as individuals, this to me is as I have been taught by the children where the lion lays down with the lamb but is still a lion.
Thank you Stan for writing this as was it is great to read something this good for a change.
I shall now go to my cave entrance and love the world as it needs a lot of love, Yours Ian.T

There are a million reasons to believe in yourself,
So find more reasons to believe in others..

Charles Wright (poet)

Poet Laureate of the United States. 2014

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Born August 25, 1935
Pickwick Dam, Tennessee
Language English
Nationality American
Alma mater Davidson College;
Iowa Writers' Workshop
Genres Poetry
Notable award(s) Pulitzer Prize for poetry;
National Book Award for Poetry

Charles Wright (born August 25, 1935) is an American poet.
He shared the National Book Award in 1983 for Country Music: Selected Early Poems and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for Black Zodiac.
In June 2014, he was named Poet Laureate of the United States.
Wright was born in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, and attended Davidson College and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.
From 1966 to 1983, he taught at the University of California, Irvine.
He is now a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets and Souder Family Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
On June 12th, 2014, the Library of Congress announced that Wright would serve as Poet Laureate of the United States beginning on September 25th, 2014.
Beside the award-winning books Country Music (1982) and Black Zodiac (1997),
Wright has published Chickamauga, Buffalo Yoga, Negative Blue, Appalachia, The World of the Ten Thousand Things: Poems 1980-1990, Zone Journals and Hard Freight. His work also appears in Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts.
Wright has published two works of criticism, Half-life and Quarter Notes.
His translation of Eugenio Montale's The Storm and Other Poems won him the PEN Translation Prize in 1979. In 1993, he received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for his lifetime achievement.
• Caribou, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
• Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012. — winner of the 2013 Bollingen Prize
• Outtakes Sarabande, 2010.
• Sestets Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009.
• Littlefoot Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007
• Scar Tissue Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006. — winner of the 2007 International Griffin Poetry Prize
• The Wrong End of the Rainbow Sarabande, 2005.
• Buffalo Yoga Farrar, Straux & Giroux, 2004.
• A Short History of the Shadow Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002.
• Negative Blue Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000.
• North American Bear Sutton Hoo, 1999.
• Appalachia Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998.
• Black Zodiac Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997. —winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
• Chickamauga Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995. —finalist, 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
• Quarter Notes (improvisations and interviews) U of Michigan Press, 1995.
• The World of the Ten Thousand Things. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990.
• Xionia Windhover Press, 1990.
• Zone Journals Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988.
• Halflife (improvisations and interviews) U of Michigan Press, 1988.
• The Other Side of the River. Random House 1984. —finalist, 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
• Orphic Songs. Dino Campana (translations) Field Editions, 1984.
• Country Music: Selected Early Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1982) —shared the National Book Award for Poetry with Galway Kinnell, Selected Poems; finalist, 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
• The Southern Cross Random House, 1981. —finalist, 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry The Storm and Other Things Eugenio Montale (translations) Field Editions, 1978.
• China Trace Wesleyan University Press, 1977.
• Bloodlines Wesleyan University Press, 1975.
• Hard Freight Wesleyan University Press, 1973.
• The Grave of the Right Hand Wesleyan University Press, 1970.

There are a million reasons to believe in yourself,
So find more reasons to believe in others..

As to areas of the world Not represented on Neo : The entirety of South America, Central America, Mexico, The countries of the former Soviet Union, China, Japan, the Koreas. So we have entire continents not represented. A lot of this is likely due to this being a predominantly English speaking site. Then there are countries which restrict internet access or where access is too expensive. But I also post on another site which is a lot larger than here (and this other site is proof that bigger isn't always better) and this other site is not represented any better than we are. I have no answer as to how we could penetrate new areas but I Do welcome suggestions.

There WILL be a book of poetry by poets here in the next few years if I have to finance and organize it myself. There are entirely too many above average poets here to Not be in a book.

I have Googled and looked at some of the poems by Charles Wright. And even a duffer like me can see his stuff is excellent. But I can't find a single poem by him which could be considered western classic in style....unbelievable. He is bound to have written a few at some time I would think. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that poet laureates are usually chosen by academics. And from what little i know of the ivory tower types they all seem to consider western classic forms to be passe. Robert Frost was a pretty decent poet and during his time he was writing in the still prevalent style of western classic for a lot of his stuff. But if he was alive today he'd likely not be considered worthy enough to be honored as U.S. poet laureate because of the classic style in which he writes. And the academic world is aware of this bias toward free verse so most of them who dare to dream of being recognized shun any form other than free verse..........stan

author comment

This post inspired me to go back and reread some of the poets I struggled with during my schooling. Right now I am pushing through Derek Walcott. I'm glad there are blogs like this to push us forward and outward.

Sorry for late reply, comp has been down. I think the new guy will be what poetry needs to reach out to society in general.
It is my hope that more people will start posting blogs on site and thus share their thoughts and ideas with one another........stan

author comment

I have been composing poetry
since I was age 9 or less maybe
that was a million decades away

In school they spoke of Shakespeare and Macbeth
brought me laurels
I became a literatti over nite a poet!
and then among many other things
became a poet lover of imaginary duet!

Much till lately to Jess's disgust

I don't read many
except all those who profess
they are poets
some are worse
so I take a deep breath of satisfaction
in poetic prosaic prose ,
I have spoken
I voiced poetry across many a stage
short of a standing ovation
they continued to clap without any provocation...

Here on Neopoet I have read poets
the like of Esker, you Ian and Geremia
but I wonder if you have noticed now
all don't write western seasoned poetry
most follow me in composing free
even you do at times Stan.

all I want to say
no two poetry's of mine
have any commonality
despite the dawns gone merrily
yet many I assure myself
read me.

Decades don't a spring make
nor a single maid, love
but together we all can say
poetry comes to some
if it may
have a happy poetic day
all can't read me any way
There are 7.5 billions of us
so why about any poet fuss
including many of us.

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