Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Misinterpretations of two sessions at Writers and Readers Week, 2008

Bill introduced Paul. He said Paul is possibly the planet’s pre-eminent poet
Princeton poetry professor, a prodigy, prolific.  Paul didn’t demur.
I don’t think Paul is a morning person.  He brought about four of his
published works on stage with him.  He hadn’t used post-its to mark
the poems he was going to read.  Bill said Paul said poets try to re-write
the work of past poets when writing new poetry.  Or something like that.
(Harold once said something similar in a different way – didn’t he?)
Paul thought a nine-thirty in the morning reading was a bit different.
He waffled a bit while trying to find the poems he was going to read.
I don’t think Bill is a morning person either.  He didn’t ask questions
when Paul left him gaps to do so.  So Paul waffled a bit more.  It was
a little disconcerting.  Perhaps there had been a welcome party the night
before.  Paul was disconcerted by the jackhammers behind the stage.
Paul’s poems were good.  Bill thought we should hear some songs written
by Paul and played by the guitar band he’s in.  I’m not sure who was singing.
Some people got up and left then.  Paul finished with a witty comment
about poetry.  I suspect he’s used it at other readings.  Everybody clapped.
Bill said to stay seated while Paul and he exited.  More got up and left then.

Christian said he is a ‘sound’ poet.  He read several poems very loudly.
Some people put their fingers in their ears.  A few got up and left.
Most of the poems he read didn’t have intelligible words in them. Christian won
a very big award and lots of money for writing some long prose poems.
All the words in each poem have only the same one vowel in them.  Christian said
he doesn’t write conventional poetry because he doesn’t want to inflict his ego
on anyone.  ‘Chapter i’ was the single-vowel prose poem he chose to read to us.
He said it was his favourite chapter.  Christian is conducting a GE project
in which he will alter the genetic structure of a microbe by implanting a
mirror cipher on its genome.  The cipher will write a poem.  When the microbe
regenerates, new poems will get written on the genomes of the offspring.
He thinks this will be a nearly foolproof way of communicating the high points of
human culture to ET beings who find our planet.  Christian doesn’t seem to be into
GE ethics, unintended biosphere-experiment consequences, or planetary safety.
I mean, what if all the poems the mutant microbes write are really, really bad?

I went to my first 2012 Wellington Festival Writers and Readers Week event today. It was really good then I remembered the 2008 Festival and a poem I had written after attending a couple of the readings.  Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week. 



  1. I curse every year that writers and readers happens right in the middle of mad March - and now it doesn't feel so very bad, I feel I can almost touch the pomposity and ego...and the fun.

    Thanks - as always I'm a big fan of humorous poems but this has an added streak of grounded reality and unconformity that makes it that little bit different and far more interesting.

  2. Fabulous! The waffling of Paul and Bill made me laugh out loud. The GE project sounds dire. Thanks for sharing - made my afternoon :)


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