Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Here's The Word - My New Poetry Podcast

After a few years hiatus, I'm finally making my way back into poetry appreciation and analysis.  Critical Point Theatre, http://www.criticalpointtheatre.com/, was generous enough to offer me a spot in their rotation of podcasts under their new podcast wing.  It probably helps that the Head Honcho of Podcasts for Critical Point (that is the official title for the position) is my brother, Andrew Kaberline.  If you've stumbled upon We Convince By Our Presence and enjoyed some of the written content now or in past years, then I encourage you to swing by Critical Point Theatre's podcast wing, https://theatrecpt.wordpress.com/category/heres-the-word-2/.  There you'll find a number of wonderful podcasts worth your time, including Here's The Word with me, Matt Kaberline, as the host.  The first episode focuses on Oranges by Gary Soto.  Episode two, which delves into Naomi Shihab Nye's poem Famous, should be posted sometime this week. And future episodes will feature poems I've written about on this blog in past years, as well as brand new poems.  

In the meantime, I wanted to share with y'all the mission statement for Here's The Word...

Poetry… So much can be accomplished with a single word. 

Some of you just heard that word that begins with a p and shivers traveled down your spine at the speed of light. You had flashbacks to high school and the English teacher who repeatedly asked, “but what does the poem mean?” as if it was a rubik cube and you could somehow twist your way to a solution, to a meaning. 

Others heard poetry and got all warm and fuzzy inside. You were read Dr. Seuss from an early age. Shakespearean sonnets are your thing. A boyfriend gave you a book of Neruda’s poems and read them to you, maybe in bed. You were Emily Dickinson in another life. You would subject yourself to driving through a tropical storm just to hear Billy Collins read his newest collection of laugh-out-loud reflections or Mary Oliver cradle you with her words as she lulls you into nature. 

And then there is you, the intended reader of this blog post and the intended listener of our new program, Here’s The Word. For you, poetry doesn’t incite PTSD, but it also is not likely to immerse you in joy…yet. You see, that’s where we come in. We are determined to make poetry a little more fun for all of us. It’s been tried before, in fact every modern Poet Laureate has been tasked with helping poetry become more accessible to the non-poetry reader. It’s not that these efforts have failed, but we figured that any effort to bring poetry to the masses is a noble pursuit, so we decided to throw our hats in the ring. 

For your listening enjoyment, we present Here’s The Word, a fresh take on poetry, featuring poems from near and far, old and new, on all sorts of topics, written by all sorts of poets. While the structure of the program will remain relatively stable, the content will vary greatly, all with the goal of introducing you to poetry that you should read. Why poetry? For thousands of years we have written, read, spoken, and listened to poetry. Stories were told legends were shared, news was passed along, lives were celebrated, loves were sealed, and histories of whole peoples were disseminated through poetry. Poetry remains an essential means of communicating the human condition in all its intricacies and various stages. 

Wallace Stevens once observed that, “the purpose of poetry is to contribute to man’s happiness.” When we sing a drinking song in a pub with friends or ramble our way through a favorite nursery rhyme with our kids, we are using poetry to stoke our own happiness. Salman Rushdie’s view on poetry veers in the opposite direction; he notes that “a poet’s work is to name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” Through Rushdie’s lens, poets are responsible for keeping the world vigilantly aware of conflicts and appropriately weighed down by the scales of justice. Both of these writers are correct in their assessments, and because they are both correct we can see the diverse beauty of poetry. It’s an all-encompassing form that allows the silly and the serious to exist together, peacefully, in the same world. This is the world we will explore, with you as our guest and co-pilot, on Here’s The Word. 

Join us as we invoke Billy Collins and “waterski / across the surface of poems / waving at the author’s name on the shore.” 


I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

---Billy Collins. “Introduction to Poetry” from The Apple That Astonished Paris. Copyright � 1988, 1996 by Billy Collins.