Blog, January 7 — Paul Richmond

Notes on Contributors

Human Error Publishing January Vachel Lindsay

The mystery of Vachel Lindsay
One of the most visible poets in America
Consider the father of the Beats
Nearly forgotten
I didn’t recognize the name
Vachel Lindsay

 

I was recently asked by another author
Were my books selling?
Was I making a living from my writing?
I said I wasn’t.
But I am making more money from words
Then I was two years ago
I said that I knew many talented artists
Who had gotten great reviews
Had “followers”, 1000’s of “Friends”
People who “liked” their art
They are not selling their art
No one’s buying

 

In the 1920’s Vachel Lindsay
Was arguably the most visible poet in America
Thousands, witnessed, his performances
In the 60’s one of his poems “The Congo” was seen as racist
His work was shunned
He started to disappear from public view

 

I read a version of “The Congo”
Had notes on how to read the poem
Direction as if it is a theater piece
Places where it was to be sung
It was said that Yeats had asked Lindsay
“What are we going to do to restore the primitive singing of poetry?”
This brings up another whole discussion
Hasn’t “Spoken Word” been here from the beginning?
Which is now seen as a style of presentation
With its own audience

 

How are words to be presented to an audience?
Has different schools of thought
Do you read off the paper?
Do you have it memorized?
Do you make it up on the spot?
Do you do all three?
Lindsay called his performance style “The Higher Vaudeville,”
It was largely on performance that his fame depended

 

In Austin at the Annual Poetry Festival
And where ever Poets present their pieces
One of the ongoing discussions
Is about the difference of words on a page
To words being spoken or performed
Is there a line in which one crosses into theater?
And some of the really good poets were lousy readers
And some who performed had weak material they performed grandly
And then if it becomes a performance
There are the “hits”
Lindsay wrote by 1922
He was worn out by the demands of audiences
For the same material over and over
Like a one-hit rock band
He was not “allowed” to create, but only to repeat

 

Now here we are in 2012
Keep writing
And you will have to figure out
Are your words best left on the page
For others to read
Or is your strength in your voice
In your energy
Bringing life to words
Maybe both are true
And whether or not you will be remembered
Is a good question

 

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