Poetry: A Notion

S.F. State throws a poetic hootenanny

Try this experiment: Print up little cards that say "Poetic License." Hand them out to 10-year-olds and explain that the flimsy rectangles allow them to break all the rules of grammar. Explain that with these permission slips in their backpacks, they can write anything they want, anything at all. (Maybe mention that they don't actually need the cards, just the idea. Maybe.) Then wait 20 years and ask what these now-grown-up kids think about self-expression, reading, writing, and poetry. Chances are, they'll remember quite vividly the sense of freedom that came with those little cards.

What kind of nuts really do things like this? Who really believes in the liberating power of such tricky stunts? Poets, of course. And while plenty of people love to roll their eyes at poetry, where would we be without it? The truth is, it's part of a balanced intellectual diet, and it should be consumed regularly. Here's a small dose -- Marianne Moore's "Poetry": "I, too, dislike it./ Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in/ it, after all, a place for the genuine." Ahhh, I feel better already.

At the SFSU Poetry Center's 50/50 Festival("50 years of poetry past ... 50 years of poetry future"), the range of celebratory verse looks wide enough for any taste, encompassing five stages presenting simultaneous performances (don't worry -- organizers are handing out maps). If you're a subversive type, try Jack Spicer's "Magic Workshop." Fans of the lyricism of Pablo Neruda should appreciate that the 100th anniversary of his birth is noted here with bilingual readings. A lineup of San Francisco's best-loved big-shot versifiers -- including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Diane di Prima, and devorah major -- will no doubt be a general favorite. And in the afternoon, a free kids' program features readings and workshops for those who are as yet unlicensed.

 
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