Carmine Starnino raised some interesting questions for me, particularly about audience [“Lazy Bastardism: A Notebook,” January 2010]. While wrestling with a particular line or stanza, I’ve wondered, as I’m sure many poets have, “What’s the point? Does anyone even read this stuff anymore?” It’s easy to blame myself, to blame poets in general, for poetry’s decline in popularity. It’s easy to say that we’re too abstruse or self-absorbed or boring. It’s easy to replace two-dollar words with their five- and ten-cent cousins and say we’re appealing to the common reader. It’s easy when there’s someone to blame, and when there seems to be a quick fix. But Starnino shows that it’s really not a question of blame at all. Some people just aren’t going to read poetry—they’d “rather watch grass grow”—and we as poets have to come to terms with that. We’re not writing to compete with best-selling authors or to score points with the so-called common reader; in fact, maybe we’re not even writing for an audience at all. We’re writing for ourselves, because we have something we believe is important enough to put down on paper, and because we can’t fathom doing otherwise.
mountain view, california