Sunday, September 16, 2007

Peach Tree

I was greatly amused the other day to visit the Poetry Foundation website and listen to one of the NPR podcasts, Poetry Off the Shelf, which featured Dean Young:

http://podcastdownload.npr.org/anon.npr-podcasts/podcast/960/510219/14210534/alt.NPR_14210534.mp3

(I have no idea if you can click through on this link or not, as I perpetually screw up this type of thing.)

Anyway, the concept of the program is that the host and his erstwhile assistant are reading Poetry magazine and "just don't get" a particular poem. So they call up the poet and ask him or her to explain it to them. The level of disingenuousness on part of host and erstwhile assistant is nauseating. Dean was incredibly polite, given that he was being forced to suffer idiots. The first thing they asked him was "what does it mean?" They also asked him whether or not he went to a lot of poetry readings or gave a lot of poetry readings and whether or not he enjoyed them. If any of you know Dean, you should really listen to this: the level of understated, restrained amusement in his voice is incredibly funny.

Dean on meaning in another context: "I don't think a poem needs to have a point any more than a peach tree needs to have a point. But I do feel it has to have affect, to reveal itself not as geometry but as a living thing. To move, to produce, to bring forth. It may be too easy to interpret that need as a psychological requirement to the poem, that a poem has to reach down its own throat and rip out its own heart. Well, that DOES work but it can show a change in consciousness (what is the thing that poetry produces? consciousness, more consciousness which is just one of the reasons the unconscious is of such vital importance because it is what consciousness must always aspire to--to know the unknown, or at least sleep with it) . . . ."

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