Poets Writing Letters
Copyright © by Norm Olson, 1/27/01

  A small press poet and artist would be somebody who wrote poetry and drew pictures and published the results in college literary magazines and oddball poetry ‘zines with a readership of seven.  Most people care almost nothing about poetry and art, know vaguely that it is something they should care about and twice a year stumble through the museum of modern art and wonder how stupid they are that they see only a pile of crap on a hardwood floor where others see masterpieces.  I understand that the Providence Sunday Journal recently published an article by Channing Frey on this subject.  I have a friend, a pen pal actually, as I have never met him, named Dave Church who is a Providence poet and publisher of poetry, a great artist, in fact, who is so appreciated in Providence that he is allowed to drive a cab for a living.
  Anyway, being a neo-Luddite of the first water, I write letters to Mr. Church, send him poetry and drawings which he publishes in his magazines and broadsides and distributes to a few people who are interested in such productions.  I call myself a Luddite because I prefer letters, typed or handwritten to e-mail.  I have no good reason for this reactionary stand except that my experience with e-mail and the internet has mostly been one of frustration and disappointment and I have a vaguely defined and perhaps unfounded belief that impersonal electronic communication is part of the problem these days (what problem?  whaddayou got?) and not part of the solution.  I like the fact that it is going to take my letter a day or two to get to Mr. Church, or whoever and get some probably shallow ego satisfaction, as a writer of sorts, that my words, even in the form of a letter are going to last at least the few days it takes them to get from my old typewriter to Mr. Church’s cluttered breakfast table.  Besides, if handwritten will do, I can write my letter sitting in a park over my lunch hour, checking out the beautiful women (yes and men too, but, this is really none of your business) and conveying the results to a yellow legal tablet (sometimes referred to as a Luddite laptop).
  The point of all of this then, is that I got a letter from Mr. Church the other day which described the article mentioned above.  He said it was a cranky article about modern art that alleged that modern painters can’t paint and modern poets are ignorant of the craft of poetry.  Since these are precisely my views, I can see why he thought that I would be interested in hearing about Mr. Channing Frey’s commentary.   Haha!! thought I.  Due to the miracle of modern technology, I can go to the web page of this esteemed Eastern Seaboard purveyor of news, opinions, advertisements, etc. and read that article for myself.  Then I can write a letter (as mentioned above, I do enjoy writing letters) to the editor lavishing praise on Mr. Frey for having the good sense to share my views.
  Well, you can only imagine my chagrin when, after 45 minutes of browsing the projo website, I began to seriously doubt whether Channing Frey even existed at all, much less shared my hostility for the Museum of Modern Art and all its provincial minions.  Actually, I think contemporary fine art is best described as, a shitpile on the back of a toad but, I guess that is another story.  So, as I sat in Mears Park in St. Paul, Minnesota over the lunch hour, listening vaguely to an unfortunate folksinger desperately trying to coax music from an out of tune banjo and an even more out of tune vocal apparatus, enjoying the chirp of the sparrows, the wash of sunlight over the brick path and my pale forearms, and even enjoying the off key version of Puff the Magic Dragon, I was about to compose a scathing letter denouncing Mr. Church for sending me on a wild art critic chase.  “Dear Dave, you jerk…”  no, that was not quite it, “Yo Dave wazup you jerk…”  no that was not it either.  I guess I was suffering from letter writer’s block.  So, I gave up on writing the epistle of abuse and decided to write an article for the Providence Journal instead.  “Dear Providence Journal, your website, like all websites, sucks….”  or no, maybe “Dear projo, yo wazup…” yeah, that’s it… “heyprojo, Channing Frey is cool with me, modern art bites the big one and…hey…do you know a guy named Church, big guy, needs a shave, drives a cab…writes free verse…don’t use a computer…??” 

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