Speaking out: Poetry as communicationWritten by John Dorsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s another sleepless night here in Toledo and I’m up packing for an out of town poetry reading and I’m sitting here thinking about a conversation I had recently about poetry’s standing in the arts community, not just here, but around the country.
I’ve heard it all, from poetry’s not entertainment, to it’s not a performing art form, to it’s not an art form at all. If any of the above is true, what have I been doing all these years?
I’ve been lucky enough to write for TFP almost since the very beginning and it has certainly financed more than a few reading tours, but long before any of that, came the poetry itself. I moved here in 2003 with an old college friend and about 400 bucks in my pocket. After about 3 weeks of sitting around my apartment like an urban vampire, my roommate demanded that I go outside, mentioning that he had come across this coffee shop on his way to work and that there were poetry readings there. It was poetry that first started my conversation with Toledo. From that first coffee shop reading, came another, and then a bar and then reading between the sets of local musicians like Chris Knopp or Jason Quick or Nick Baker and the guys from the Sweatpants, the list really could go on and on. My point is that the people of Toledo, and the members of the arts community here were very kind. So kind in fact, that I was actually able to make a living as a poet selling books in bars. …
So what’s my point exactly? Well, it’s this, we live in very lonely culture as it is and taking away another form of communication seems not only silly, but stupid, and possibly life threatening, quality of life that is. Because after all of the debate, that’s what poetry really is, a means of communication. A way to open up to those around you and if you want to, wear your heart on your sleeve and wave it around like a flag for all to feel. Because it seems to me that’s what we’re really afraid of, talking to one another. Well, it’s time to start talking, sure you could just go get beer, but wouldn’t you rather self medicate with words.
If you look back at the lives and careers of famous poets like Dylan Thomas, like Emily Dickinson, like William Shakespeare and countless others, history just proves my point. Do we study these writers in universities simply because they probably needed a heavy dose of Prozac and self esteem? Hopefully not, hopefully it’s because what they had to say was revolutionary and highly relatable to our own modern dilemmas.
I’m lucky enough to work for a paper that does understand the value of communication, a paper that understands that poetry’s days as a second class art form have to end now. Whether it’s their recent involvement in this year’s Art Walk events, to their sponsorship of the upcoming Zygote in My Fez poetry festival, to their commitment to covering all poetry events, to letting me write this column, we are happily on the same page, no pun intended. Now it’s time you got on board, whether it’s as a reader, writer, or a listener, poetry needs your support and I’m thanking you in advance. Repeat after me, poetry does have value, as much any cover band or opera performance and any other ART FORM.
Next time we meet I want to talk about how we can take poetry outside our community and hit the road for a tour of words on a shoestring budget. I hope you’ll join me.
Until next time…keep your pencil sharp.
John Dorsey resides in Toledo’s Old West End. His work is widely published and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.