Earlier tonight, I saw former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins read at the Skirball Center [named after Jack Skirball, film producer probably best known for producing Alfred Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT] in West L.A.
Collins breaks two rules of academia-related poetry:
1. He's not afraid to be accessible to people who aren't steeped in extensive knowledge of poetry and poets.
2. He's not afraid to be entertaining and make people laugh.
There are poets in the Los Angeles/Orange County communities who can be entertainers. But it too often seems that poets feel they have to go to the Right workshops, get the Right degree from the Right university's MFA program and study with the Right private instructors to be considered a Real poet (and that's not mentioning all the tsuris that formal poets get about finding the Right publishers to submit their manuscripts to).
When Billy Collins answered some audience questions, I was tempted to ask him about where he thinks the Los Angeles formal poetry community (who believe in all the Right things) falls on his scale of worthwhile poets/poetry.
But I knew it wasn't the Right question to ask. After ten years of writing and reading poetry in Los Angeles, I've learned to reflexively censor myself where public gatherings of literati are concerned.