Sunday, June 7, 2009

Which Poets?

Yesterday, Anita Schiffman Holzberg, originally from Rutherford NJ (Bergen County) where W. C. Williams practiced medicine as a GP, & I went about an hour north of Santa Clara to the City of Menlo Park’s library for The Gathering of the Poetry Groups, Poets, Musicians, & Artists - an arts festival.

It was introduced & hosted by Phil Hackett, formerly of Boston, (a lesser Jack Powers), who has since migrated to San Francisco. I could hardly recognize the Hackett I once knew; he didn’t recognize me. The poems he read were the same post-Beat ones he had sent me a few years ago. .

Anita was very disappointed - she’s a more inventive poet than Hackett is - so I told her that for festival purposes post-Beats offer a well-known, bookable quantity, demonstrably loyal to each other: Neal Cassady’s son John Allen sat in as a guitarist for poetess 'Violet Fire', giving Beat poetry news & Cassady family updates. Post-Beats can, will & do come as a package.

Anita finally had enuf, so we left early. As she drove me back down to Santa Clara, I said to her: "If, 50 yrs ago, you wondered which school of American poetry would last beyond 2000, you might well have said Black Mountain College (Olson, Creeley, Levertov, Duncan, et. al., all dead now) but actually it’s proven to be the Beats; post-Beats persistently function at the street-level." The general public can easily grasp their unacademic popular style, so post-Beat street-poets have become the model for poets - for unacademic audiences. This year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe even features a Charles Bukowski do-alike, 'Henry Chinaski' (Bukowski's personal pseudonym in his novels.)

But there's also a growing phenom. of appointed poets-laureate on all levels selected by varying sponsoring orgs to serve regional (national, state, county, sub-regional, city, island, town, village) constituencies with varying terms (one year to rest of life.) Here, in upper Santa Clara County, genial, accomodating, retired San Jose State prof. Nils Peterson (originally from NJ) is now serving a 2 year term as the 1st poet laureate of Silicon Valley, surely having earned it by decades of continuingly-varied public-poetic activities. (It pays USD$4K/yr.)

No comments: