Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The curious case of the poet

Like pretty much everyone I've spoken too, I was bored stiff by the poem read by Elizabeth Alexander at Obama's inauguration. It was an awful poem - filled with clich├ęs and trite or just plain boring imagery. It was also read in the most wooden manner. It wasn't good, but it was made several magnitudes worse by the poet's own recitation.

Which causes me to ask - why is it that we always expect poets to read their own writing? That expectation seems non-existent for most other varieties of professional writer: lyricists don't have to sing (and singers don't have to write their own lyrics); playwrights and screenwriters aren't expected to be actors; novelists or writers of non-fiction sometimes read selections, but it's hardly given the importance of a poet's reading - and the book-on-tape is rarely read by the author. So why the different standard?

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