Me: Yeah, no, I write too …
Person: Really, great! What do you write?
Sometimes that person actually lowers their eyes, bows their head, as though I have somehow reached too far into their minds and reminded them of all the cultural production, art forms and a hard kind of yoga they SAID they’re going to get into. They become confused, ‘cause they’d been hoping for a ‘published novelist/kids book author/cupcake blogger’ reply. They’d already decided to read me, and here I was telling them – just like that! – that I am a poet. And that means they’d have to read some poetry to follow through. Hmmm …
I think about this a lot – this event that happens, nearly daily. And I’m wondering about convergence.
I am thinking about ways poetry sidles up to, or just smooshes itself in with, other things. Other art forms, other places (places not billed as poetry readings). I will go a-hunting, and wait for those better times where, unexpectedly, the poetry is reached out to and invited. When people seek it, want it and show it to others. I hereby use the example – yes I am, and here it comes – of someone cutting out a poem from The Age or The Australian and keeping It. What happens if that person shows the poem to someone despite how afraid they are that it’ll refract in that other person’s reading of it or bounce back like an unopened letter? It takes bravery to do this – to show – and this in itself is curious when you consider it.
This post is not a call-to arms for poetry popularisation, or the need to ‘make it accessible’. Those efforts occur (public programs, school visits) and always will, not least because a majority of our population is concerned with what’s measurable, what’s able to be digested. Yet, neither am I anti-popular (provided the idea is good and does something of benefit).
I’m interested in the seams poetry creates; what is it that makes Kate Fagan’s students at UWS go mad for Michael Farrell’s poetry – the same poetry that makes some lyric poets’ heads hurt? Why did it take lobbying for poetry to be added as a category to the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and, moreover, now that it is included, does that make any difference? What kind of difference do we want? Why is poetry left out of the Stella Award altogether? Why did I like it when I was called a poetess (ah, the gender question) in Paris? How do people find their way into this messy place – poetry – that takes as much or as little as it likes from academia, history, rules, un-rules and music?
Things go missing from creative outputs when an art form is forced upon others. Like a member of a small but quite functional cult, I do, from the inside, want people to know about it – about how it can infiltrate your veins, and about how, if you’re interested in creative and arty art things, you should try this one. The trip is bigger, better. You’ll never go back to beginning-middle-end thinking after this.
What is the doorway, people? What is the gateway poem-drug?
My name’s Melinda Bufton. I’m your friendly neighbourhood pusher.