I often lament the lack of attention poetry gets in the ‘regular’ world. Used to be you could see a poem in the newspaper, or read a poem in a magazine (like the occasional short story too!) Presidents often trot out poets for inaugurations, and citizens seek the perfect poem for wedding toasts or funeral goodbyes, mayors get poets to help them celebrate local events–but despite this kind of “hey, poetry is important” stuff, hardly anyone reads poetry anymore. So what about all of the other ways we could sneak poetry into the lives of our average citizens? The possibilities are endless. Instead of ‘product placement’–why not poetry placement?
I was thrilled Sunday night when Don Draper of Mad Men purchased a copy of Frank O’hara poems despite the ego-filled, total tool at the bar eyeing Don’s “Ad Man” suit and cocktail over lunch and proclaiming I don’t think you’d like it. Don read the poems in the dark in his home office–a voice-over letting viewers hear the words too. It was lovely. Then Don trudged to the mail box and dropped his copy in the mail after inscribing the book to—a lover? We’ll find out next week! In the meantime, sales of Frank O’Hara have spiked at Amazon and at local bookstores. Hell, I wanted to go get my own copy of Frank O’Hara. I settled for a reread of Lunch Poems instead. This is the power of television.
On Monday poetry hit the front page of the LA Times: August Kleinzahler, San Francisco’s “Angry Poet.” I felt like buying 20 copies–but instead, just got one. Yes, ok, the article supports absolutely every stereotype the average citizen might have about poets–from the angry loner who wears black to the drunken, know-it-all, society hater, but the article had full-color photos and included pulled poetry quotes (in italics instead of a full poem–cringe). And it was the front page! Below the fold, but still, the front page! The New York Times does this sort of thing pretty often, but in L.A. it’s hard to trump the most recent earthquake–or Britney Spears. So, things may be looking up for poetry!