In the 11 previous installments of this column, I’ve been trying to convince you that poetry need not be intimidating or obtuse, that a nursery rhyme or pop song can be every bit as much a poem as the stuff in your textbooks and that poems should never — ever — be boring.

Poets, on the other hand, can be much more boring than you’d expect. Or at least as boring as the rest of us. Wallace Stevens said “the poet is the priest of the invisible,” which sounds much more poetic than his own day job, as a vice president at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. I, for one, am still waiting to hear the Geico Caveman recite: “Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk, / May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves / A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.” The Caveman or that Mayhem guy.

The poems of Stevens’s near-contemporary Marianne Moore demonstrate an exacting attention to the details of the natural world. Moore was also a keen observer of athletic events, a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and of the young Muhammad Ali, who was a poet himself with a productive boxing hobby.

Imagine how Moore would have gotten any poems finished in this era of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN: The Magazine. I’ve often wondered the same thing about Charles Wright, who shares with me a reverence for the sports/argument series “Pardon the Interruption.” Wright’s poems — for which he received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize — concern themselves with “language, landscape and the idea of God.” He is a spiritual poet for our century who also watches PTI with a religious devotion.

I recently asked Wright if he still watches. “Every day,” he told me. “It’s the end of my day. I watch PTI and I have my martini and then I have supper.” For Wright, the pleasure is less the sports stories under discussion than the discussion itself. “I like (Tony) Kornheiser and (Michael) Wilbon. They love to bait each other, and that’s what makes the show so much fun.”

I thought I was the only poet who watched too much television. But even LSA Prof. Linda Gregerson, who has been celebrated for her poetry as well as her scholarship on Early Modern England, confessed to watching all 26 episodes of “Wallander,” the Swedish murder mystery series adapted from Henning Mankell’s novels.

LSA Prof. A. Van Jordan would be watching NBA basketball at this time of year, “but right now, with the lockout, I’m relegated to my comic book subscriptions at Vault of Midnight.” The Flash, the Atom, and other citizens of the D.C. Universe even show up in Jordan’s third book, “Quantum Lyrics.”

Beth Ann Fennelly, author of three books of poems and a memoir, likes “working out at the gym on the elliptical while reading People magazine and listening to Snoop Dogg.” Poet, critic and essayist Meghan O’Rourke reads design blogs. Fredrick Seidel is a noted collector of Ducati motorcycles. (Of course, being independently wealthy like Seidel makes both poetry and Ducati-collecting much easier to justify as indulgences.)

I also heard from former Poet Laureate Rita Dove, who had recently spent her weekend “in an Argentine tango workshop.” She and her husband, the writer and translator Fred Viebahn, took up ballroom dancing as a distraction after a fire destroyed their home in Charlottesville, Virginia. Dove also cites the guilty pleasure of reading detective novels. “The dance is certainly more poetic than the detective fiction,” she wrote, “but the remedies for strained muscles and aching feet — ice packs and Epsom salts — certainly qualify as ‘unpoetic.’ ”

MacArthur Grant recipient Mark Strand started his career as a painter, then became a poet as well as a translator and a critic of art and photography. Lately, he has been making collages from paper that he makes himself. He also likes to shop, he said, adding, “but I don’t buy. I like to shop with my daughter because I like women’s styles — they’re much more adventurous.

“When I shop for men’s clothing, it’s really looking for an interesting texture or cut in a jacket, but my daughter looks great in clothes and I love shopping with her and I like to see her try on stuff.” I did not ask Strand whom he was wearing during our interview.

I have my own guilty pleasures, of course, but I’ll keep most of them to myself, at the risk of turning the last appearance of this column into a profile. My only guilt would be if these columns haven’t sent you in search of the various ways poetry can enrich your life. Other than that, it’s been my pleasure.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.