NPM09: "Can Poetry Matter?" and "Insomnia"

Dana Gioia (a dude) has a wonderful and important essay that I like to point to on National Poetry Month: "Can Poetry Matter?" (found in his book Can Poetry Matter?).  I've shortened Gioia's concluding points below, but I wanted to give you a taste here.

...I would wishthat poetry could again become a part of American public culture. I don't think this is impossible. All it would require is that poets and poetry teachers take more responsibility for bringing their art to the public. I will close with six modest proposals for how this dream might come true.

1. When poets give public readings, they should spend part of every program reciting other people's work

2. When arts administrators plan public readings, they should avoid the standard subculture format of poetry only. Mix poetry with the other arts, especially music.

3. Poets need to write prose about poetry more often, more candidly, and more effectively. 

4. Poets who compile anthologies—or even reading lists—should be scrupulously honest in including only poems they genuinely admire.

5. Poetry teachers especially at the high school and undergraduate levels, should spend less time on analysis and more on performance. Poetry needs to be liberated from literary criticism. Poems should be memorized, recited, and performed. The sheer joy of the art must be emphasized.

6. Finally poets and arts administrators should use radio to expand the art's audience. Poetry is an aural medium, and thus ideally suited to radio.

It is time to experiment, time to leave the well-ordered but stuffy classroom, time to restore a vulgar vitality to poetry and unleash the energy now trapped in the subculture. There is nothing to lose. Society has already told us that poetry is dead. Let's build a funeral pyre out of the desiccated conventions piled around us and watch the ancient, spangle-feathered, unkillable phoenix rise from the ashes.

Read the rest of Gioia's "Can Poetry Matter?" as well as some of his poetry, at Here's his poem "Insomnia" from Daily Horoscope...

Now you hear what the house has to say.
Pipes clanking, water running in the dark,
the mortgaged walls shifting in discomfort,
and voices mounting in an endless drone
of small complaints like the sounds of a family
that year by year you've learned how to ignore.

But now you must listen to the things you own,
all that you've worked for these past years,
the murmur of property, of things in disrepair,
the moving parts about to come undone,
and twisting in the sheets remember all
the faces you could not bring yourself to love.

How many voices have escaped you until now,
the venting furnace, the floorboards underfoot,
the steady accusations of the clock
numbering the minutes no one will mark.
The terrible clarity this moment brings,
the useless insight, the unbroken dark.