Kirby Congdon Key West’s First Poet Laureate

by Kirby Congdon…….

A few years ago, when a poet introduced her poem with the advice, “This really happened,” I was not able to stop thinking about it. Did she mean that the poem was founded on real facts, grounded on verifiable experience like an existential newspaper? If so, did she mean all the rest of her work was based on imaginary suppositions? Was everything made up like a fairy tale, fiction, or some other kind of entertainment? This would be the stuff of the nursery room or Hallmark greeting cards.

When one reads a poem, he wants thought, exploration, and new ideas, not platitudes, the certain, or the tried and true, because these are not what happen. What really happens is the experience we never had before. A poem lets us know what that was. Poets do not record what’s reliable, what conforms, what has already been tested. The quality we look for is not the original fact but originality, the eye-opener, the unusual. Like death and birth, events may happen multitudinous times and still be unique. We identify each one. Life is not just a commitment to a job like any other. In a world of conformity, even our Social Security number has to be different than anyone else’s. That is how we find out who we are and maybe, even how we got there. We don’t care what happened as usual but what’s distinctive and unusual. About what? Well, let me see the poem.

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