is a poet.
to write a poem
is inborn, and
|"Is that a real poem or did you just make it up yourself?"* is a question only poets can answer. "Who is a poet?" is another question, "What is a poem?" is the answer. You can't answer a question with a question is a truism, a philosophical conundrum, a rote response, and therefore not a poem. Ahem.|
Poetry activist Luís Rodriguez, Jr., has said that "Everyone is a poet. The ability to write a poem is inborn, and anyone can do it." While you are writing a poem, you are a poet. Are you a poet when you put the quill down, when the Screensaver comes up on your laptop and you head for the refrigerator (bookshelf) for some inspiration?
|Sometimes the answer is not related to the question. A physicist once told me that the greatest haiku of all time was e=mc2. Is there a place where art meets science, dances the dance of the universes, the gyres of being and doing, of it and about it and tag you are it?|
Certainly, in The United States of Poetry, poetry has met television and thus introduced new possibilities for both: a sense of relevance, for starters. But on our voyage through these states to film the show, it was actually meeting the poets, hearing them, seeing the ease with which they took the role of poet and lived in it like clothes, that inspired us.
The portraits that follow are not connected by theme, region or aesthetic, but simply by the fact that they are poets. These are real poems, and portraits of the poets who just made them up.
JULI YANCY is twenty-two and lives in Omaha. This is her first published poem.
KELL ROBERTSON has been a rodeo cowboy, a c & w singer, and is the first man on a horse to get killed off in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. He has always been a poet. Currently somewhere on the road in the Southwest.
MAUREEN OWEN lives in Guilford, Connecticut and works for Inland Books, one of the foremost names in poetry distribution. She was Coordinator of the St. Marks Poetry Project during the 1970s. Editor of Telephone Books and Magazine.
WALLACE MCRAE, the "Cowboy Curmudgeon," is the classic cowboy poet, and wrote what many consider the classic contemporary cowboy poem, "Reincarnation." He is the first cowboy poet to ever receive a National Heritage Award. Wally still works the family ranch in Forsyth, Montana.
MIKE TYLER was born and raised in New York City. The "most dangerous writer in America," he once broke his arm while reading (resulting in the poem "Logic Broke My Arm"). He was Poetry Director and editor of American Idealism Rag at the seminal downtown poetry anti-salon, ABC No Rio.
*These apocryphal words first appeared in print as the title of an essay by Robert Creeley, published as "Sparrow #40" by Black Sparrow Press in 1976.