|The Paula Gordon Show|
Poetry’s great power is its ability to make us
more human and alive, less alone, to offer solace and insight and healing
... even if only a little, according to Thomas Lux. He’s part of
a poetic resurgence being experienced around the world.
[This Program was recorded October 17, 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]
Thomas Lux tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell about poetry’s revival all over the world. Mr. Lux credits “slam” poets for bringing poetry back to the human voice and describes how poetry speaks directly to the human condition.
Poets from Erica Jong to Billy Collins have been part
of the resurgence of poetry in America, Mr. Lux says, applauding the expanding
venues. He describes how and why poets write. Unable to imagine poets
who would not want to be understood, Mr. Lux acknowledges there are
still people who revel in obscurity. Vital, original poetry is meant to
be understood and read out loud, he insists, and describes how poetry
can fill the human longing to feel connected. A writer’s life as
a writer begins when his or her obituary is published, he says, and addresses
the craft itself.
Remembering his own eagerness to be a teacher, Mr. Lux
describes a variety of ways poets make a living. The writer’s
first responsibility, he says, is not to bore the reader. He urges
poets to be clear and direct, acknowledging the challenge to balance originality
and accessibility. He suggests why we love poetry. Poems
are “made things,” Mr. Lux says, and describes how he brings
the world into his poems. The role of “craft” is explored.
You have to learn the rules of traditional poetry before you can break
them, he counsels aspiring poets.
The world is full of poetic moments, says Mr. Lux, but
to turn them into a poem takes sweat. He describes the process. He reads
his poem “The Bandage Factory” and describes how he crafted
it. He wants his poems to be stories, he says, and agrees with Pound that
poets are the antennae of the race. Mr. Lux explains his role as a servant
to language, not vice versa. Adamant that song lyrics are not poems, he
reads his “Regarding (Most) Songs,” praising the necessity
of music. He distances himself from “directly autobiographical”
poems. “Sincerity,” he says, is deadly for a poet and expands
on what makes poetry powerful.
Mr. Lux describes Georgia Institute of Technology’s
“Poetry at Tech” program, which he has created and leads.
Going into the community is a key element, he says, serving adults as
well as school children. Mr. Lux links poetry’s long history to
its renewed power as a spoken art, in America and the world. He considers
its potential as a revolutionary force, then describes the early days
of “slams” and their broad influence. What poetry has always
done for human beings is to start the blood rising, he says. He compares
prose to poetry.
Thomas Lux sets the stage for and then concludes by reading his poem, “The People of the Other Village."
Thomas Lux gently nudged Paula and Bill back toward
the land of poetry and has now made us feel welcome there. We are immensely
grateful to him for that, for the luminosity that he and his poems add
to the world, and for a great deal more.
Our program with Thomas Lux and businessman/poet, Bruce McEver, who endowed the other poetry chair at Georgia Tech is here.