Love poetry or hate it (btw, you don’t really hate it), Ohio Poet Laureate Dave Lucas is right there with you.
What’s it like to be a poet laureate? I asked Dave Lucas that–and more–in this interview over email. Here’s what the author, teacher, and “poetry evangelist” had to say.
Dave, how much does it mean for you to have been chosen as Poet Laureate of Ohio, and what’s up next for 2019?
If you’d asked me this a year ago, I would have said how honored I felt by the selection and how excited I was for the two years to come. A year into my term I still feel honored and excited, but more than anything I feel gratitude. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see parts of my home state I’ve never visited before, to talk about poetry in such varied settings and with so many people for whom poetry is a way of making meaning of their lives.
In 2019 I hope to continue those travels, but I also hope to “meet” more Ohioans virtually through the “Poetry for People Who Hate Poetry” project. The project entails a monthly column syndicated in Ohio newspapers and media outlets; this year we hope to create a podcast version as well, so that we can promote poetry in whatever medium Ohioans get their information and culture.
As Poet Laureate, I imagine you’ve met many Ohioans in your travels around the state. What has surprised you most?
I’ve certainly been struck by the number and quality of poetry programs taking place at the regional and local levels. These are workshops, reading groups, recitations, slams, and more, and I’ve encountered them everywhere I’ve traveled in Ohio. The internet has of course been revolutionary for bringing people together around a common interest, but there’s something wonderful about seeing people gather in common physical space to talk about poetry.
In your Poet Laureate column on the Ohio Arts Council site, as well as in the classroom, you send the message that most of us love poetry, even if we don’t know it yet. Can you talk a little about how you define poetry and give us a couple examples of the kinds of poetic language we can find outside of what we traditionally think of as poetry?
Literary history tells us that anyone who attempts to define poetry today is about to be proven wrong tomorrow. That’s both the pleasure and challenge of trying to say what poetry is or isn’t. So I try to maintain as broad and flexible a definition as possible. I think that poetry is the aesthetic pleasure we take in language. Words are for play as well as work, as the groan-worthy puns of any good “Dad joke” will demonstrate.
So puns and jokes in general might be examples of the poetry we find outside of “poems.” So are the metaphors we use to describe the world. Riddles, jingles, lyrics, mnemonics, and more. For instance, I’ve just finished a column (my sixth installment) about the artistry of slang, which Walt Whitman treats as the democratic aspect of poetry. In this column I argue that even if you haven’t read a poem since high school, you participate every day in the artistry of language simply via the creativity of the slang you use. Read more