In his essay “The Poet and the Audience,” poet Michael Ryan asserts that the poet was traditionally the central figure of a tribe, the “shaman-healer.” Because she was much closer to the gods, her “divine madness” kept the tribe together through her songs and chants. I don’t assume all readers are in the same metaphorical “tribe,” that all look to the same poet for guidance, which is why I use multiple poetic voices to give advice. The other poets have already done all the work, and being a devoted poet myself, I have studied them and continue to study them every day. I know where to look.
But before this gets too dry, let me take Ryan’s essay one step further: The poet, being much closer to the gods, is most likely always right, meaning, of course, that one should always listen to her — and “the poet” is a flexible term, a transcendent state that could also be called the speaker of a poem. Frank O’Hara was a poet, but he also drank too much, so one likely should not have listened to everything he said. But one should listen to what his speaker says in “Ave Maria”:
Mothers of America
let your kids go to the movies!
Please enjoy the rest of Poetry Month responsibly. • 27 April 2009To visit Hoggat's site or to ask the poet a question, just go to The Smart Set