Boys reading their poetic fortunes at the Red Fern Festival
The academic world of poetry has never interested me as much as the mundane world of poetry. Some people might balk at putting “poetry” and “mundane” in the same sentence, but let’s look at the origin of a word that in the popular imagination means a bunch of negative things: common, ordinary, banal, unimaginative.
late 15c., from M.Fr. mondain (12c.), from L. mundanus “belonging to the world” (as distinct from the Church), from mundus “universe, world,” lit. “clean, elegant”; used as a transl. of Gk. khosmos (see cosmos) in its Pythagorean sense of “the physical universe” (the original sense of the Gk. word was “orderly arrangement”). L. mundus also was used of a woman’s “ornaments, dress,” and is related to the adj. mundus “clean, elegant” (used of women’s dress, etc.). Related: Mundanity.
At the Red Fern Festival, this little boy came back time after time to make new poems from the words on blocks.
Okay, now what’s horrible about that definition? “Mundane” has a rich origin. It defines things of the world, things clean and elegant, the physical universe that supports us, the cosmos.
I am a poet of the mundane, of the world. I find poetry in the world, in all places, in all people. I have all the typical criteria of an academic poet–the degrees, the published poetry, the college teaching experience–but what interests me is the poetry that the ordinary person has, so it’s no wonder I am a traveling roadshow poet rather than one who focuses on traditional teaching and publishing.
At the museum doing the poem cache hunt on the golf cart
Bringing in people to the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry, interacting at festivals, typing poems in a minute, littering random streets and buildings with poetry cards: I guess, this is my calling. So be it. I guess I’ll stay broke. So be it. I guess I’ll continue to buy my clothes at yard sales. So be it. I guess I’ll give in to where all indications have been pointing me to go . . . for all of my life.
So be it.
The following photos are from April 4, when I wrote Poems-In-A-Minute for people at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa.