Wednesday, August 24, 2005

does it matter what a poet looks like?

This is not a rhetorical question. Seriously. I want to know.

I have been thinking a lot about poets and what they look like. At the Vancouver Poetry Slam, I always try to find a picture of the feature poet on the web before I go to the show, so I can say hi before the show, and also so I know that's the poet. My observation so far is that woman poets look all kinds of different ways, but more often than not, the visiting poet from another city, if he's a man, is usually the weirdest looking person in the place. Sorry,sorry,sorry to all of the visiting man poets who I have met and who I now think look just fine. It's just before I know them, they look weird to me. Once I see/hear them perform and introduce myself and say hi, then they all look spectacularly beautiful and brilliant. I am not exaggerating. I am that easily swayed.

Which is why I was very surprised when I first saw George Bowering. I had seen photographs of him like this and this and this. So I had a certain expectation. (actually, not weird, but pretty much "literary" looking.)

Then he came to the West Coast Poetry Festival in July, and he looked like this. Yup. George Bowering looked like Hank Hill on King of the Hill.

I know it should not matter at all what a poet looks like (to answer my own question, rhetorical or not). But it may be distracting, at least for a while. Until the poet reads or recites his work then it doesn't matter. The impression made by the words overwhelms that first, shallow one.

I wonder what I look like when I perform as a poet. A Homemaker Mom, I suspect. Like this, or this, or this. That can be overcome somewhat by my words, but I think they mostly reinforce the mom-ness of me.

question: Were you ever surprised by someone's appearance?

mompoet - trying not to look, only to listen


Carol said...

Hi Mompoet,
It is always a pleasure to see what a fellow Blogger looks like.

Remember Friendly Friday!

Raehan said...

Hi! Coming from Carols. I also want to read some of your poetry!

k8 said...

i am always surprised when i see pictures of radio djs. they always look different than their voice.

mommy d said...

Here from Carols...more poetry please!

Pearl said...

I found that I was surprised each time I read a poet then saw them perform. Even the difference from pre-show and on stage can be big. The more poets I see, the less pattern I can see in what A Poet looks like. Some are more image oriented I guess and sell themselves as "Artiste" while others promote another aspect of themselves by dress and comportment.

Are you planning to go to the Wordlympics slam in October in Vancouver? I keep going back and forth on attending myself.

Pearl said...

It's a lively poetry scene there as I understand.

Found you thru Carol's. I'll be back.

Laura said...

This is absolutely NOT why you're writing your blog (and by the way, I'm having a blast reading it and enjoying your questions), but I gotta give it a shot: Canadian husband and I are thinking of relocating from Ann Arbor MI to Vancouver area, maybe Port Moody. I like rain--but is it too rainy? Ann Arbor is liberal and eclectic--will I be out of place and the oldest mom of a five-year-old within 100 km? (I'm 45). We're both writers. My husband wears funky hats. Will we fit in? Will my son get a decent education? Anything you have the time or inclination to tell us would be very much welcome. Cheers from one writer (currently blogless) to another--Laura

mompoet said...

Vancouver is spectacular. I was born in Columbus Ohio, and imported here by my parents when I was almost 5 years old, so I didn't choose Vancouver, but I'm glad I'm here. Port Moody is pretty special. Why not visit and check out the area? Politically/socially it's wacky - every extreme in the book, but plenty of like-minded people if you lean left-ward. More people here from somewhere else than born here, so less snobbity-bobbity than the social scenes I have encountered in some eastern cities. Lots of 45 year old moms of 5 year olds. You'd be in great company. And a vibrant local literary scene. About the rain...It has never bothered me. We just had 2 straight months of glorious glorious summer, and when it does rain, you can still do everything you do when it's sunny except get too much ultraviolet. The best part is that it snows about 3 days a year. Winters are mild and outdoor-friendly, just like a lot of the people here. Check it out.