Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Regarding deceased poets and the need to keep their work alive.

Several poets have passed away during the sixteen years I have been involved in poetry (including francEyE, Jack Shafer, Erica Erdman, Wanda Coleman, Scott Wannberg, Donn Deedon--and, most recently, Steve Baratta).

A few years back, when I was in the throes of feuding with Victor Infante over withering comments he made to me on my work, I didn't appreciate the essential wisdom of what he was saying about how certain poets are plunged into artistic oblivion after their deaths.

Here's an excerpt from a blog post (mainly on Charles Bukowski) he wrote five years ago; this concerns francEyE:
Lately, it seems, I've been in the midst of a lot of efforts to maintain the legacies of writers whom I've known, whether it's FrancEye, or Ted Walker, whose work never made it to the United States in a large way, despite being well-published in England, or any of the number of slammers who've died whose work I feel is in danger of disappearing, such as Ken Hunt and Angela Boyce. To say I'm concerned is an understatement, because frankly, despite the old adage that poets only become famous after they're dead, it's extremely difficult to sort poems out when the poet's not alive -- most frequently, you're dealing with the poets' families, who most likely have inherited the rights to the writing and know little about publishing, and that can be difficult and awkward.

Am I being alarmist? Perhaps, but I've been to a lot of poets' funerals, so I sincerely doubt it. The fact is, I sincerely believe there is a large number of poems created by the poets that have traveled through and around slam that are not just good, but are truly important, and I want someone to be able to read those poems 50, 100 years from now. It shouldn't have to be a treasure hunt.

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