I find it sometimes necessary, when recommending a poet’s work to a non-poetry reader to say, “I don’t read poetry, but…” and then plug whomever it may be. This is a half-true statement. I don’t read much poetry. I read a little and the little that I read (Berryman, Lasky, Flynn, Nelson) I absolutely love. But poetry, as a whole, seems to exist for poets. It’s something that poets read either in the hopes of being better poets or because they have a nice time reading it. I don’t know anyone who reads poetry who doesn’t also write it. True, there are exceptions. A lot of fiction and non-fiction writers read a little poetry (like myself) but for the most part, poetry is consumed by poets.
Which leads me to wonder: Do any poets read Oprah Magazine? And do any poets wear very simple, straightforward $341 shirts? Does this seem like an irrelevant question? And how could it not?
Oprah Magazine just published a fashion shoot in which young female poets are dressed up in very nice clothes. To make it obvious that they were poets, their words were scattered artfully around the image. Supposedly, this is part of Oprah’s “National Poetry Month” Issue, the Oprah empire’s attempt to get your mom to read some poetry, which I feel is a worthy, albeit fraught, endeavor. If every non-poetry reader (or non-poet) found at least one poet whose voice they liked, and if we all bought a book by that poet, I feel the effect could be tremendously positive. But is that what is really going on here?
Here we see full-color spreads of the young, female poets, their words lying disjointed around them. Some of these poets have not yet even published a collection, or if they do, they’re not mentioned in the little blurbs accompanying the shots. One is Anna Moschovakis, an editor at Ugly Duckling. One is modeling a style deemed ‘Perfectly Punk,’ and looking up at a line of (her own?) poetry that references a studded belt.
And it’s just a little depressing, somehow. Is fashion really a good way to sell poetry, to get the O-reading masses to read some poems? Or is this, as I suspect, just fashion for fashion’s sake, and the poetesses is just the unlikely vehicle for the clothing the needs advertising?
I really do want your mom to read poetry. I want your dad to read it to. But really, I will settle for them reading a book of any kind. Sadly, I think this fashion shoot is going to sell a lot more $995 jackets designed by ‘Haute Hippie.’ (I am depressed that I now know a clothing designer named ‘Haute Hippie’ even exists.)