Thursday, January 20, 2011

found out

Last week I mentioned Frank O'Hara and linked to a really interesting piece on him by yet another poet I didn't know, Elaine Equi. She's quite famous, and pretty soon agents of the Academy of American Poets are going to show up on my so-called poet's doorstep and relieve me of my laminated Poets Club ID card based on my dire ignorance of modern American poetry.

I'll plead with them, explaining that after all it was I who, as a work-study student at Wesleyan University Press in 1982, discovered Yusuf Komunyakaa's Copacetic in the slush pile and sent it breathlessly off to the Editorial Board, but they'll say, "That's no excuse for admitting in public that you had never heard of Elaine Equi until 2011. Just look at the kind of works she's been producing since 1978, long before you found yourself typing first-reader's reports in Middletown, CT on a manual typewriter using carbon sets."

They'll thrust a page into my hands. "Just look at this poem from The Cloud of Knowable Things! And you call yourself a poet!" Then they'll turn on their heels as I cry from my kidscribbled, catscratched teacher's doorway, "Please--I just need more time!"
[echo of "more time! more time! more time!" receding into the distance]

excerpt from
The Objects in Fairy Tales

are always
the most important
Then as now,
the power to transform
is theirs —
the story
a way of talking through
(and to) us.
Shoes of Fortune,
Magic Beans,
are unlike objects
in magazines
for they awaken
us against our will
from the spell of abject
longing for more.
Only then do we live
happily ever after.


They speak
but not
to everyone,

just those
ready to hear
and endure

what they have to say —

impossible tasks,

shine wrapped around
the seedvoice.

Golden apples
in the grasp of time.

"I'll climb up."

~ Elaine Equi

I wonder: what kind of well-read do you have to be, to write well?
Explore this question and others at A Teaching Life with Tara Smith, host of Poetry Friday this week.
I promise a return to the Kidlitosphere next week...


  1. I'll eat the beans. I always have.

  2. I'll give you bonus points towards keeping your laminated Poets' Club ID for introducing me to a new favorite poet (she's hovering up near Billy Collins and Kay Ryan)! Surely it counts that you're not keeping all the new poets to yourself...still.

  3. Love your opener, Heidi! "Kidscribbled" is a great adjective.

    There are a million roads to writing well, aren't there?

  4. I'm with Mary Lee on this aren't the only one who hadn't heard of Elaine Equi (that might be the best poet name ever, by the way), and you aren't the only one grateful to learn of her and her work today. Thank you!

  5. I love that title, The Cloud of Knowable Things, and the objects in fairy tales are what I love most. Yes, you get to keep the card. And I was in the ignorant club, too, till you pulled us out -- thanks!

  6. i've always thought of well-read as variety and open-mindedness and not quantity. i'd much rather read an author who reads outside their genre and comfort zone.

    never heard of elaine equi before today, and i like these, so i think a visit to the library is in order.

    as poetry goes i have and probably will always feel like an interloper and a fraud. i suspect exposing others to poets they've never heard of will protect your poets club ID card.

  7. I think we all count on each other to introduce us to new-for-us poets at just the right time.

    I love objects and furnishings in fairy tales, too. Thanks!

  8. Put me in the ignorant club, too. I've read much more children's poetry than adult, and I can't remember most of what I read, anyway!

    I think reading widely is wonderful! But I also think it matters perhaps less in poetry than in other forms? I read poetry because I love it, and I'm sure it informs my own writing...but poetry is SO varied, I don't think ignorance of specific poets is any great shame:>)

  9. I think the lesson here is that a) we all belong to the Don't-Know-It-All Club, which certain types of us tend to forget, and that b)Don't-Know-It-All Club membership can be as much of a joy as Poets Club membership.

    Thanks to all for your comments, and for visiting with me!

  10. You get to keep your card, and I hereby upgrade it to platinum. Humility and the desire to be educated are the hallmarks of intelligence in the study of any art.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!