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The end of poetry?

February 13, 2008
I have flexible hours here at IBJ due to the amount of evening and weekend A&E events I attend.

One of the advantages of such a non-schedule is that at least twice a week I’m in the car at 9 a.m. when “The Writer’s Almanac” is broadcast on WFYI.

The brief show, in case you haven’t heard it, consists of Garrison Keillor reciting a poem after telling us about literary birthdays and anniversaries (lately he seems to be tipping further toward history than toward writers. Why announce Charles Lindbergh’s birthday here? Just asking.)

Keillor — or whoever makes the choices for the show — is savvy about finding poems that strike a chord without requiring revisits. For instance, today’s piece, William Reichard’s “Dream Home,” plays much better on the ear than it does on the eye. And it's last lines work beautifully — even in traffic. (Read — or hear — it here. And while you are there, dig around in the archive.)

On the eve of Valentine’s Day—a holiday often associated with poetry (although for most of us, that's limited to Hallmark Cards)—I’m wondering why my enthusiasm for that show hasn’t lead me to read more poetry? Are we losing our ability to process poetry in print while, at the same time, we're resistant to experiencing it live? Are we afraid to share in another person’s intimacies? Do we lack the faith to believe that someone else can inspire us to think deeper or differently about our own lives?

Or is it just that there are other, better media out there to satisfy us?

In short, do we still need poetry?

Your thoughts?
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