Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Muse: Baron Wormser on Poetry

Baron Wormser, former Poet Laureate of Maine, recently presented a lecture and reading at Misty Valley Books, Chester, Vermont. Titled "The Irony and the Ecstasy: On the Nature of Poetry", the lecture (Episode 10 of 10) was part of the series "Poets & Their Craft" presented by Sundog Poetry Center, Jeffersonville.

Following are selected highlights from the excellent lecture:

✦ "Poetry. . . is a both and art rather than an either or art. It rejects easy, seemingly definitive choices. It rejects black and white. It does not revel in complexity for the sake of complexity but it acknowledges that complexity informs any given moment of ours on earth, and that there is no avoiding that. . . ."

✦ "Without attitude, there is no poetry. . . ." [Here, Wormser cites Emily Dickinson, who, he says, had "big attitude and was unafraid to aim at whatever totem stood in her way."]

✦ "To be a poet in modern times is to live in the wilderness of information, knowledge, fact, theory, news, the steady drizzle of educated and less-than-educated voices massaging the mass psyche, while what matters to the poet is nothing more than feeling, the stuff of laughter and tears that tells us we are alive, and more than the recipients of articulate babble." 

✦ ". . . What underlies poetry is desperation. For poetry that is truly poetry is always urgent language. . . Poetry aims very high as it seeks to reach an unimpeachable concision and latitude. . . ." Poetry, Wormser adds in an aside, "is pretty hard to write."

✦ ". . . Poetry registers what I like to call the thrill of being. Poetry is accordingly rooted in praise, because being is better than non-being—much better. Nothing has to happen for there to be poems. . . ."

✦ ". . . When we speak of a great poet, . . . we are speaking of someone who has a feel for both the depth of life and the breadth. It is hard, though, to go both ways. . . ."

✦ "The artist is both haunted and obsessed. How could there be art without these qualities? . . ."

✦ ". . . One of the gifts of poetry is that it can summon up a great deal in a small space, and not demand some simple resolution or answer. . . ."

✦ "There are no explanations for poems. . . ."

Watch and listen to the lecture and Wormser's poetry reading in its entirety:

My thanks to CavanKerry Press and Sundog Poetry Center for making the video available. According to the press, the lecture series, as well as interviews with the poets, will air on Vermont PBS this winter.

Baron Wormser's 10th collection (from which he reads during the lecture) is the superb Unidentified Sighing Objects (CavanKerry Press, 2015).

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