Tuesday, January 14, 2003

But of course I love Frank O'Hara. And I've written three books of poems myself in the past five years (I would say I began writing poetry in a serious way in 1997) and am halfway through a fourth. I just haven't been able to publish so prolifically because I've been a typical post-MFA monad dependent on book contests (how many of those damn $25 checks have I written?) to get my work out there. And, let's face it, I haven't been immune to what is perceived in most quarters as the greater prestige of a perfect-bound book published by an established house and/or chosen by a prestigious judge (Selah splits the difference, I guess).

I think I object to long poems more than I do to prolfiic publishing; very long poems, especially those which don't foreground a musical vocabulary, bore me out of my tree. Maybe what impedes my pleasure is a neurotic desire to be able to read enough of a poet to feel that I have some "grasp" of them, and if they're intensely prolific this is more difficult to do. That's what's nice about dead poets who died young: I can relax when I pick up Keats or Hart Crane or Plath because there's only so much of them and I know that what there is will sit still long enough for me to become intimate with it. Even Whitman, who was nothing if not prolifically avant garde, seems manageable because there's just the one book, however long.

Do poets write so much because no one is reading them?

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