no suffering from an American giant

Saw Charles Simic speak tonight at the Bishop’s Gate Institute  – gawd – it was the nearest thing the poetry world gets to an orgy – or an American style Roast. You know, the kind of thing that’s done with comedians or celebrities. I sat in the third row and ahead of me alone I spotted Mimi Khalvati, Faber‘s Matthew Hollis and Simon Armitage. Several fellow poetry students sat abreast of me. We listened, rapt, as the great man talked of his childhood in Belgrade during the war, his thoughts on poetry in 50s America and today. He had many interesting things to say: “America may be going to hell in a hurry, but fine poems continue to be written there.”  He says, amazingly, despite the war in Iraq, the credit crunch and the lack of literature being taught in schools, poetry is rampant in today’s America. He cited a poetry festival he attended in Sept 08 which 90 000 Americans attended.

“American poets have much less cultural baggage than European poets, ” he explained. They write with the philosophy of insight, not tradition. “In the USA, poetry has the feel of an ongoing project, even after 200 years.”

There was Q and A afterwards. Someone asked him if poets had to suffer to write well.

“No.” he was quite sure of this. He said he was often inspired to write when quite happy, when he was sitting at the kitchen table with good smells coming from the oven. He says he’s not a confessional poet. “I’m more interested in what I can make up than what happened.”

Nice man. Please see Poem of the Day slot for one of his fine poems.

Later, I had a nice chat to Mimi and MrArmitage. The are both very fine poets and very nice poeple too.

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~ by moniqueroffey on February 5, 2009.

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