A note from Rosemarie Dombrowski for National Poetry Month - April 2017
On Poetry, Truth, & Community
Originality requires the aptitude for exile. -Jane Hirschfield
Arguably, creativity is more about having a passion for the truth, possessing the ability to expose oneself regardless of perceived social repercussions. Creativity is more about truth-telling than it is about developing a truly "idiosyncratic aesthetic," or so Jane Hirschfield suggests in her essay "The Question of Originality."
She also claims that "If a writer is to speak meaningfully, she may stretch communal understandings, but at least some listeners must be able to follow her words. Even if those listeners are only a handful, it is they who will keep the work available until broader recognition arrives."
In alignment with Hirschfield's sentiments, I would posit that
- The poet writes from a space of geographical or psychological exile.
- The poet must eschew social constraints and the fear of rejection.
- The poet should expand communal understanding (or offer the means by which we can all contribute to that expansion).
The poem or poems born out of these conditions can impact a classroom, a neighborhood, a community, even a city. Sometimes, an entire country.
We can't stop reading and writing truthful, fearless poetry because it's our only bulwark against the most detrimental kind of exile – that of the heart. When we see ourselves as separate from others, when we lose sight of that essential truth – our biological and spiritual connection to all living things – we will become the mechanistic and self-imprisoned society that we most fear.
This is why poetry lives – to keep us human.
About Rosemarie Dombrowski
Rosemarie Dombrowski is the founder of Rinky Dink Press, a poetry editor at Four Chambers Press, and the co-founder and host of the Phoenix Poetry Series, which is about to enter its tenth year. She has been nominated for several poetry-related awards and her work has appeared in numerous publications. Her collections include
The Book of Emergencies, a lyrical exploration of the culture of autism, and
The Philosophy of Unclean Things, a celebration of phobias, superstitions, and decay.
In addition to being a lifetime literary arts activist, she is a Senior Lecturer of English on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus, where she has taught since its inaugural year (2006). She is the co-founder and editor of the undergraduate writing journal on campus, and she teaches courses on poetics, women's literature, and creative ethnography.
A public call for nominations was issued in October 2016 and a panel of literary experts and other leaders in the Arizona arts and culture community convened in November to review the applications. The panel evaluated the applications based on 1) recognition of the poet within the literary, cultural, or education communities; 2) record of high quality, published or documented work or service through the literary arts; 3) willingness to make presentations throughout the Phoenix area; and 4) interest in pursuing a major literary project with an emphasis on outreach and education.
The United States Poet Laureate (or Consultant in Poetry) was established in 1937; the current U.S. Poet Laureate is Juan Felipe Herrera (formerly the California poet laureate). A majority of states have established an official poet laureate. Alberto Álvaro Ríos became Arizona's first State Poet Laureate in August 2013. While numerous cities nominate a poet laureate, some of the largest cities in America created a City poet laureate position in 2012 and 2013, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, and San Antonio.
Photo of Rosemarie Dombrowski courtesey of Enrique Garcia