Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin'
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter

   - from "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" by Bob Dylan performed by Jason Mraz

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #15

     In "Does poetry still matter?" by Brandon Griggs we read: 

     Polito, the Poetry Foundation president, argues that poetry's reach shouldn't be measured merely by sales of books or literary journals. As it has with everything else, the Internet has democratized poetry by making it free and instantly accessible to everyone, he said.

     "There's clearly a paradigm shift going on," he said. "A lot of people experience poetry¹ not through printed books ... but online and through social media."

     In our first post on the topic of social media we showed how this is done, combining text, graphics, video and/or sound.  Before we return to that, let's look at the Who-What-Where-When-Why aspects of recreating--in both senses of the word--an audience for verse.

     "Poetry," said poet and associate professor Kyle Dargan of American University in Washington, is "not the kind of thing people are going to run into on their own. It's not 'Jurassic World'."

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #158
     Actually, poetry's condition is very much like "Jurassic World".  Think of who is presenting verse¹ on social media:  the authors, their friends and, occasionally, their editors.  It is never an arms-length member of the 99% who aren't involved with the production of poetry.  That is because nobody reads poetry.  Yes, 7% of the population has read poetry in the last year but what percentage of that is contemporary?  Given the choice between one of today's versifiers and "Homer, Rumi, Dante, Shakespeare, the Romantic poets²," what choice do you think the vast majority of those readers are making?  Is it possible that fewer people are reading poetry³ than writing it?  It seems so.  In any event, we have "ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'."

     We cannot breed dinosaurs because we don't have any stock.  Similarly, there isn't a significant population online who were alive when poetry was.  It's not a matter of poetry being dead;  the problem is that we can barely imagine it being alive.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #171
     As in "Jurassic Park", we need to use preserved material to reanimate something which once reigned supreme. Then, like "Jurassic World", we need to use technology to process and present it.

     We start with the DNA and the amber in which it is caught.  These are genetically coded predispositions encased in the resin that binds all of us together.  Throughout history, the two most significant of these have been Humor and Love.  This isn't confined to bawdy limericks about a man from Nantucket or protestations like "Sonnet 43".  If you've been online for more than 5 minutes you know that the sole purpose of all human technology endeavor is the appreciation of adorable puppies and kittens.  The reason is as subtle as a double-barrel shotgun:  using cuteness and cuddliness, these critters appeal to both of our main interests.  (Of course, to paraphrase "Kemla's Farewell", romance in the past perfect tense is sadness.  #elegy #RainbowBridge)

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #72
     Now that we know what people will click on, we need to put it in a palatable format.  If people were interested in using their own imaginations they'd be writing poetry, not reading it, so "palatable" means "video", with or without text.  If you have Windows 7 or higher you have or can download Movie Maker, watch a short tutorial, and be ready to go.  For Mac users a similar program is available or you can use IMovie.

     Upload your final product to a site like YouTube or Vimeo and then post links to it on Facebook or Twitter.  We assume you know better than to mention the word "poetry" in this process. 

     Let us know how it goes!

Coming Soon"Love is a Weakness", Chapter 1


¹ - Unless stated otherwise, "poetry" or "verse" will refer to contemporary poetry other than religious (e.g. Quranic, Biblical, etc.) verse or song lyrics.

² - i.e. the examples the article uses.

³ - i.e. other than the quid pro quo skimming of poems in the venue to which they contribute.

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