Some Thoughts on Poetry   Leave a comment

At the Pocketful of Poesy Open Mic At Waves Cafe.

In my last post, I talked about how changes in technology, especially having to do with smart phones and various Apps like Instagram, have changed the nature of photography, both how it is done and how photos are shared. But what I really set out to talk about was poetry. This post is an elaboration of something I said, probably was in the middle of saying in the photo on the left, at a poetry gathering the other evening. That being, how is it that with all the new technology available today that poetry not only survives but seems to be thriving with little or no influence brought to bear on it by technology?

As I said in my last post, nowadays it’s easy for people to think of themselves as photographers, maybe even a serious photographers, depending on the number of followers they have on Instagram, say.

And yet while this makes perfect sense at some level, what seems remarkable to me is at the same time, more and more people are writing poetry, yet using none of the new technology in the process. iPads and Airbooks and notebook computers have their place for certain types of communication, but from what I’ve observed, poets still favour a pen and notebook (of the paper variety) and in this regard the process of writing poetry hasn’t really changed all much since Shakespeare was writing his sonnets a little over 400 years ago.

I don’t know of anyone who has an App on their phone or tablet that facilitates the writing of poetry. I don’t even know that there is one. (That said, there are two good programs I have discovered for word processing on my computer, Omni Writer and Write Room, that help create a very intense and lovely writing environment, and yet I can’t say I have ever composed anything using either of these programs.)

For me, as for so many, it’s still a matter of opening the old Moleskine (or Leuchhturm which I’ve been using lately and actually prefer to Moleskine) notebook and taking out a pen or pencil and having at ‘er. Technology only enters into the picture when it comes time to edit, I should think. Although one thing I’ve seen lately is people reading a poem from their smart phone, something I haven’t tried yet, but it looks kind of flashy and modern. I guess I’m terribly old-fashioned in this regard — I like the comfort of the paper, or the book, in my hands when I’m giving a reading.

But as I say, poetry seems to be thriving these days nonetheless. If you look at the above photo, you will see a good cross-section of people, of all ages and sexualities and finances and levels of education who have gathered together for the shared communal experience of communicating something vital to them with a roomful of virtual strangers.

That this is just one of many such reading series in a mid-sized city not universally known for its poetry gives a strong indication that whatever the world may be now, there is perhaps more than ever a need for poetry in it.

When I was writing plays and seeing them performed with some regularity, I used to remark on this same kind of shared communal experience that the theatre offers. In one of my ramblings, probably in the Calgary Herald, I speculated that while religion is not a serious option for many people these days, we still seem to feel the need to congregate and share our stories and our feelings. I believe the theatre does that — and I believe that’s why it is still a viable and essential art form.

Now that I seem to be entering a new phase in my life as a poet, I am seeing the same thing at the readings I attend. The internet, and even things like this blog, that you are probably reading in the privacy (and isolation) of your own home, have conspired to isolate many of us, while at the same time (as on Facebook) ironically making us feel more connected than ever before.

But I think it’s safe to say that as a species, we need shared communal events. In essence, we need community. Not electronic, but actual flesh and blood and bone.  As an artist, I believe I am able to contribute to this cause, and the feeling I get in a theatre, or a poetry reading, tells me that it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. And so I soldier on.

And so we all shine on . . . .

Thanks for reading.

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