Cultivating Respect for the Arts

The poet is just as responsible for a small audience.
  • Transcript


Billy Collins:    Well first of all, I’m not terribly unhappy that poetry has a small audience.  This is not something that keeps me up at night.  One of the reasons it has a small audience is that there’s a lot of unreadable poetry being written.  So I don’t see it as the fault of a Philistine, poetry-hating, barbarian public.  I think it’s just as much the fault of poets who ignore their readers and write . . . either indulge in  self-expression period, and that’s a highly rated, over-rated activity because no one really cares about you the stranger.  Or they write terribly obscure, riddle type poetry.  

And many times you get a vicious combination of self-expression and obscurity.  So who would want to read it in the first place?  And like jazz, or like chamber music, or like keeping tropical fish, poetry has a fairly small, but very intense audience.  And often the smaller the audience, the more intense the participants feel about this interest.  I mean you can compare that to television.  It has a broad audience, but I don’t think anyone carries an intensity about it.  They just watch it.