Meat and Potatoes


The meat and potatoes of the Dodge was a series organizers this year called the Poets among us. By meat and potatoes (I hope I spelled that right) I mean the middle and upper level practitioners of poetry who gather in the tents through the village to read their poetry. This is not the theoretical "how my life has been magically transported through my dedication to craft" crap, but instead the craft itself, each poet presenting us with his or her art.


Here I must insert a disclaimer. I am a narrative poet fan. Lyrical or totally image-based verse doesn't do a thing for me. Give me the tail of a sailor lost in a sea full of angry gods and I'm completely with you. But track life via the angle of a hanging toenail through various weather and moods of light and I'm out the door.


Some people are particular to the clash of images, getting their kicks out of the thunder and lightning of eclectic poems, the repeated rhythms of crashing waves, of mood swings or intricate webs. Others like me need the plod of consistent rhythms and the flow of a constant idea. Don't give me two shards of glass and ask me for their symbolic meaning. Don't ask me to work up why and image of a disturbed lack might somehow be the same as a broken romance.


That's not my thing, as Pinsky might say.


Without great familiarity with the work of particular poets, these tent series can be significantly upsetting, remarkable diverse, and amazingly boring. Souls like mine often struggle wait out the legions of insufferable lyrical poets for those that present me with a discernable story. Almost every poet  (except those imitating Ovid or those making a political point) drown you with dripping images of their persona lives (what other material do most poets have with which to create?) and it is a chore for you to figure out the significance of what Auntie Selma meant when she -- at some point well-before the poet turned ten -- dragged out and waved an 18 inch butcher's knife at the kid. I suspect the kid read her aunt a lyrical poem and put the old biddy over the edge.


We attended two sessions involved three poets each, one session on Saturday, another on Sunday -- thus suffering through deliberate pauses signifying slight breaks, and twisted images that had little or no connection to our personal experience.


Each poet, of course, brought to these sessions remarkable personal styles, language use and private agendas.  While Baraka got the most notice in another tent for his comments on Israel, poets in our tents and probably most of the other tents as well, took out their wrath on people, places or ideas that lack lobby groups to protect them.


Of the six poets, only one struck me forcibly enough to mention by name and that was Joe Weil, an imp of a poet with red hair and beard and enough poetic power to make me laugh, dry and think all at the same time. His humorous bits drawn up on his upbringing in Elizabeth, New Jersey, managed to shape a universal reality almost anybody could understand. I could see each person he portrayed, learning to love or pity them as his poems did. In the end I left the tent having stepped into Weil's life for a time, stumbled around the same streets he had, feeling the same loss he did for the passing of a special group of people.


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