Sunday, April 13, 2008

On Being a Famous Poet

On the first day of the third grade residency I did this past week, one boy asked me, “Are you a Famous Poet or a Regular Poet?” I was at a loss for an answer. I was quite sure I didn’t qualify as “famous,” but wasn’t sure what “regular” was, though it was clearly the less appealing position. So I just mumbled something about being in between.

We then moved on to doing our poems: a color poem, a third eye poem (based on the prompt designed by Ron Padgett), a galaxy poem (the kids had just been to the Planetarium), and a Memory poem based on school days and suitable for reading at the end-of-the-year graduation program. To the left you see a picture I showed to stimulate thinking for the third eye poem. It got everyone's attention.

On the last day I read my poem Blueberry as an example of a memory poem. The poem is from my book, What Feeds Us. When the boy who’d asked if I was famous saw that I was reading from my own book, he called out, “So then you ARE famous!”

I’m glad that’s settled once and for all.

And as if that weren’t proof enough, yesterday Google sent me an alert to a link where I discovered that someone named Monique Guzman has written and posted an essay she wrote entitled Ambiguity in Art. The essay was written for her English 203 course. In it she analyzes the mixture of clarity and ambiguity in three poems, one of which is mine! She chose My Husband Discovers Poetry (scroll down to Friday, August 3) and has lots of cool insights into the poem. It is really gratifying to the ego to find one’s poem the subject of a close analysis. And she’s placed me in some very nice company: If I Should Learn, In Some Quite Casual Way by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell.

So this clinches it: I’m a famous poet. I give Ms Guzman an A+.

If you’re going to be in New York this Tuesday, please come to my reading. I’ll be reading with Sally Bliumis-Dunn and JC Todd as part of the Indie Press Series at McNally Robinson Booksellers. This must be a large store as they’ve booked Mark Strand for the same night, same time (7:00 PM). So you’ll have to choose which famous poet you want to hear.


  1. Well, isn't that a wonderful tribute to your art -- famous indeed.
    And I really enjoyed your poem, what an ending!

  2. Does being famous on Passaic Avnue count for anything? And are you taking August off? Seems like you've been busy forever!

    Nice to see the kids equating accomplishment with fame. Maybe it'll start a trend or something.

  3. Hello, Diane
    My name is Suzannah from Wellington New Zealand - am on a poetry course at the moment (year-long) and wanted to thank you for what you wrote about tone versus voice last year, which sorted things out for me, and also for the Purple bathing suit poem by Louise Gluck , which I loved. Am taking it in to the group tomorrow.
    (I have a blog on blogspot called awayofwriting)



  4. Thanks, everyone! Famous on Passaic Ave. Hm.

    Welcome, Suzannah. I'm happy to hear that my earlier ruminations were helpful. Those are two wiggly concepts, hard to pin down and define precisely.

  5. "Indeed!" I like the official weight of that.


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