Monday, May 21, 2007


Star power

My little piece about "Poetry & The Creative Mind" has now been posted over at the Poetry Foundation website. The benefit in question raised $150,000 and saved some part of a day I had rued--not bad. I began this way:
On April 11, the stage at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall was initially bare, save for an apostolic assortment of 12 chairs, 12 bottles of mineral water, and a dramatic flower arrangement. Behind me, a guy was concluding an intricate business deal on his cell as Tree Swenson, executive director of the Academy of American Poets, came onto the stage to deliver her introductory remarks. The Academy raises money for a host of worthy programs, including National Poetry Month and the Poetry Audio Archive. Yet tonight's event, dubbed "Poetry & The Creative Mind," is arguably the jewel in the organization's fund-raising crown: an annual conclave of celebrities and public figures reading their favorite specimens of American verse.

First up was Ethan Hawke. In a pale suit and T-shirt, and with the careless radiance of a film star, he launched directly into Wallace Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." I admired him for this: no hushed, self-celebrating preamble. I admired him less when he stopped three or four blackbirds into the poem and announced he had forgotten to explain who the author was. Bad boy! Even badder: he defied the all-American theme of the evening and pulled out Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening." This he read in increasingly declamatory tones, like a barfly at elocution school, ramping back only for the penultimate stanza: "O stand, stand at the window / As the tears scald and start; / You shall love your crooked neighbor / With your crooked heart." The crowd went nuts.
You can read the rest here.

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