Friday, January 2, 2009

2009: The Year of the Poem

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM all of us here at TWR Central. We took the week between Christmas and New Year's off to count up all of the Google Ad revenue from 2008. Looks like we can buy than Snicker's we've been pining for . . .

Speaking of pining, it's become more and more clear that, without knowing it, Americans are pining for poetry.

Sure, there is no evidence for this; in fact, the landscape looks pretty bleak. Some estimates suggest that only around one percent of the U. S. citizenry purchase collections of poetry, and I suspect that figure may be high. Everyone knows that unlike Russia or Chile, the United States is a country of prose, in part because Americans are intimidated not merely by reading poems but by the concept of poetry; it’s very label and all of the painful associations of class and learning that come with it. Of all the countries in the world, perhaps none are more transfixed by labels and categories than the U.S., whether it comes to movies, cars, food, clothes, or music.

It is fair to say that this preoccupation with boundaries occurs in the world of literature and literary criticism but also in the popular reception of literary texts. Americans buy fiction, non-fiction, comics, and self-help. They rarely buy poetry. Even in the most mainstream literary project—Oprah’s Book Club—there are no collections of poems. Similarly, in a quick survey of book clubs in San Francisco (perhaps the most poetry-friendly city in the country) and of those on various radio programs, I have yet to come across a book of poems up for discussion. Hollywood makes no movies of poems or poetic projects; collections of poems are rarely featured on display tables at Borders; poets are never guests on The Daily Show or Late Night with David Letterman—they don’t even make Charlie Rose. In a world of decreasing time, of truncated attention spans, of short films and videos, one would think that the lyric poem would provide the sort of quick fix that White Teeth or Almanac of the Dead cannot.

But, TWR wants to do something about this, so it has officially deemed 2009, The Year of the Poem!

We don't know what this means, exactly, but we'll follow up with subsequent posts.

In the meantime, enjoy the new year and a new poem . . .

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