Poets Forum

Kay Ryan
Juan Felipe Herrera
Anne Waldman

Three chancellors of the Academy of American Poets had a conversation at the Poets Forum in late October.  The session was entitled  “Humans and Others.”  Each poet gave an introductory statement, and then the conversation began.

Waldman has a titanic mind, making connections between protozoa, robotics, and animals of all stripes.  She made me want to read her book, Manatee Humanity.  Just listening to her say it over and over again, she drilled home the connection between the nonhuman and the human, the relationship between the large sea creatures, the sirens who drove men to crash into perilous rocks, and the puny humans who are a cancer on the planet.

Kay Ryan on the other hand is a woman of few words whose remark, “Well I looked at the title, “Humans and Others,” and I said, yeah, I fit,” made everyone laugh.  Ryan has the wit and charm of a woman comfortable in her own skin.    She seems to be a direct descendant of the sensibility of Emily Dickinson.  She quoted Emily Dickinson’s poem number 724.

It’s easy to invent a Life —
God does it — every Day —
Creation — but the Gambol
Of His Authority —

It’s easy to efface it —
The thrifty Deity
Could scarce afford Eternity
To Spontaneity —

The Perished Patterns murmur —
But His Perturbless Plan
Proceed — inserting Here — a Sun —
There — leaving out a Man —

and number 1746

The most important population
Unnoticed dwell,
They have a heaven each instant
Not any hell.

Their names, unless you know them,
‘Twere useless tell.
Of bumble-bees and other nations
The grass is full.

Juan Felipe Herrera patiently listened to Waldman as she drew connections at breakneck speed, then Kay Ryan’s rendition of two of ED.  He was sketching a jeep the whole time, because he had been thinking of buying one.  When he did some research on the car, he learned that it had features like “lock and load,” “camouflage” and other phrases that demonstrate the “weaponisation of the language.”


About Patricia Markert

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