Apr 072017
 

Key West Poet Laureate Kirby Congdon (Photo by Richard Watherwax)

by Kirby Congdon…….

With political matters becoming more urgent everywhere, this writer has found that one should avoid bringing these conflicts into the medium of poetry.
Discussing them or otherwise reacting to them is better handled in an editorial way, as in public letter-writing forums.

It is not that such matters are not worth our attention. They are, indeed, our concern. But a poem about a particular event soon becomes out of date and its sense of concern loses its strength as history reconciles a conflict one way or another. Urgent voices can be heard in prose within the environment of their own time. If Martin Luther King had said “I have a dream” within the context of a poem, we would have evaluated the success of the poetic format and forgotten about it. The phrase took on a monumental dimension beause that dream was not about the history of poetry’s reference to dreams; the phrase survives, not as literature, but as a permanent document for a particular time, a nation, a people and emphasizes a broad conflict in our lives. The man was doing more that reciting a poem.

A poem can survive too, but it knows where its territory is and functions there on its own page of history. It is not a speech, advice or an argument; it is a poem.

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Kirby Congdon
Kirby Congdon found his calling in the time of the Beat Movement, his poems being published by the New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor as well as countless small-press outlets. While influenced by the assertive stance of a new generation in literature, he preferred to set aside the spontaneous approach of his friends and use his work as an exploratory tool in establishing the new identity of his times as well as that of his own maturation. This search was incorporated in 300 works which were compiled in a bibliography by a Dean of the English Department at Long Island University in his retirement and made available in hard-back with an extensive addenda by the literary activists of Presa Press through their skills achieved from the University of Michigan and their own experience which commands a movement in itself of contemporary literary action.

Congdon’s work in poetry covers innumerable treatments of countless subjects in single poems, long treatments on a subject, and many collections of both serious thought and imagination through not only the poetry but through essays, plays and ruminations. Named the first poet laureate of Key West, he received a standing ovation for his reading honoring this position and was the featured poet in a festival celebrating Frank O’Hara in the New York region. He was also asked to read his work as well as give a talk on the country’s national poet laureate, Richard Wilbur, at a seminar honoring that man. Currently, Congdon is working on an autobiography and a collection of complete poems.
 April 7, 2017  Posted by at 12:38 am Issue #213, Kirby Congdon  Add comments