Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Keillor and Niedecker

Garrison Keillor:

The radio audience is not the devout sisterhood you find at poetry readings, leaning forward, lips pursed, hanky in hand; it’s more like a high school cafeteria. People listen to poems while they’re frying eggs and sausage and reading the paper and reasoning with their offspring, so I find it wise to stay away from stuff that is too airy or that refers off-handedly to the poet Li-Po or relies on your familiarity with butterflies or Spanish or Monet.

Good Poems (New York: Viking Penguin, 2002).
Keillor’s sexism aside: on what planet does this “devout sisterhood” exist? I’ve never encountered it at a poetry reading.

A faux-folksy insistence that an audience need not know things, an aversion to “stuff” that mentions Chinese poets, insects, foreign languages, or painters (and what else?) would keep Keillor from reading this beautiful (untitled) Lorine Niedecker poem on the air — that is, if he even knows Niedecker’s work:

I love the ideogram-like assemblage “marsh frog-clatter peace,” signifying spring. I’ll leave everything else in the poem for your inspection.

In her later years, when she worked as a cleaning woman in a hospital, Niedecker rose at 5:00 and left for work at 6:15: “dawn’s 40-watt moon” indeed. Clearly she saw no conflict between doing morning chores and thinking of Li Po — and making poetry. Her work has never appeared on Keillor’s radio program The Writer’s Almanac .

Related reading
All OCA poetry posts (Pinboard)
Four poems made from The Writer’s Almanac : 1, 2, 3, 4

[Details of Niedecker’s morning routine from Margot Peters’s Lorine Niedecker: A Poet’s Life (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011).]

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