Monday, March 18, 2013

Not Enough - An Interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The Poetry Foundation sits down with him.

From the piece...

Caples: I’ve got another question; you have a passage about Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger and Johnny Cash: “the popular poets of America…” I feel this is a line you’ve been pushing a bit, that there’s a lot of lost musicality in a lot of contemporary poetry. But it seems like an unfair comparison. I mean, poets are poets and songwriters are songwriters, you know? What’s the point of comparing poets to folk musicians, ultimately? They’re two different…

The folk musicians are the real poets, the real popular poets of America. The poets that are printed in books, how many people read them compared to the vast audience of the folksinger? A lot of the folksingers’ poems are greater than the printed poems! Dylan’s early songs were long surrealist poems. They were wonderful poems on their own. You could say the same of some of the Woody Guthrie lines… The printing press made poetry so silent. Before the printing press, poets spoke and sang aloud! They didn’t depend on the book. The Beats were the first poets since Carl Sandburg and Vachel Lindsay to make performance aloud more important than the printed version. The oral message came first.

Caples: But still at the same time it seems like there are folksingers and there are poets. Poets aren’t folksingers, so why hold them to the standard of a folksinger in that sense? Of course, a folksinger is going to be more popular than a poet.

Why not hold them to the same standards as folksingers? Or do you want to keep them forever in their cubbyholes?

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