Just Kids Question #14 - Answer me, Americain!

by Patti Smith

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Liz
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Just Kids Question #14 - Answer me, Americain!

Unread postby Liz » Mon Sep 02, 2013 10:35 pm

Pg. 232:

“Ehh!” she cried again. “Answer me, Americain! Why do you young people not honor your poets?”

“Je ne sais pas, madame,” I answered, bowing my head.

“I do not know.”


What did this French woman mean? And is it true?
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Just Kids Question #14 - Answer me, Americain!

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue Sep 03, 2013 2:13 am

I assume she means that America does not celebrate its poets but I can't answer the other question as I do not know. I do know that I probably can't name one though :biggrin:

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Re: Just Kids Question #14 - Answer me, Americain!

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Wed Sep 04, 2013 12:55 am

Hey all. I’m bummed that I haven’t been able to participate in this book discussion thus far, and chances are slim that I’ll be able to jump in much during the next few weeks. But hey, I’ve got a free night tonight, so I’m seizing the opportunity! :grin:

Per this question - well, I took the old woman quite literally, and yeah, I think it's true. We really don’t do much to honor our poets. Certainly they are not widely celebrated in the mainstream, nor studied much in school. “Mom, Dad, I want to be a poet,” would probably not go over well in most American households. The profession is not held in high regard and one has little hope of earning a living at it. Most poets of the last century that I can think of were considered "fringe" elements. Speaking in general terms, outside of music, we have very little appreciation for the art. I think (hope) that in France it is still more highly valued. So Patti is standing there in the rain, at the unmarked grave of Jim Morrison. It’s littered with trinkets and the only way Patti found it is by following the graffiti of previous well-wishers. And the old woman wonders “why”? Why indeed. Je ne sais pas.

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Re: Just Kids Question #14 - Answer me, Americain!

Unread postby Liz » Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:36 am

:wave: RR. Nice to see you. Glad you took the opportune moment.

The only thing I can figure is that, comparatively speaking, we don't honor them as do the French. But I can't say that for a fact. I know my kids studied poetry in school, but it was certainly not emphasized.
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Re: Just Kids Question #14 - Answer me, Americain!

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:14 am

If she ws referring specifically to Jim Morrison perhaps the woman could not understand why if he is one of the great peots he was not honoured with a funeral and buried in the US. Was there a reason why he was buried in Paris other than he was there at the time he died?

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Re: Just Kids Question #14 - Answer me, Americain!

Unread postby Buster » Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:55 am

Just a quick way to determine how much we honor our poets:
How many poems can you recite from memory?
Now, how many lines from movies can you quote?
Hmmm.
Name four living American poets.
Now name four athletes.
Hmmm.
I wonder how the salaries compare.... :rolleyes:

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Re: Just Kids Question #14 - Answer me, Americain!

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:06 pm

I think we used to honor poets. Any of you part of the generation that had to memorize long poems to be recited at promotion ceremonies? And back a little further when poetry was considered an essential part of most civic events, when children memorized not just one or two poems, but many poems because the act of memorizing words was a highly valued part of education.

Most of us easily recognize the names of Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, even Longfellow. All past generation writers who managed to occupy center stage while poetizing. More recently we should consider Allen Ginsberg as occupying the same stage, but is he taught in schools as these older poets were?

Poetry is part of a genre of thinking that I call 'long thought' as opposed to what we do when we tweet or text, which can be considered as 'short 'thought.' This phenomenon is present in fiction also. Those old books like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, they're filled with long wandering sentences, words hooked on words that you had to carry along to complete a thought. If you couldn't carry the words, you couldn't make sense of the paragraph, the scene, the story.

I think part of the reason people in general were so good at long thinking (and obviously, memorization is a useful skill for keeping track of thoughts) is that there wasn't a whole h*ll of lot to do. Books, newspapers, and then in the 1920s - 1930s radio. I don't think TV truly disturbed long thinking -- good dialogue is a form of long thought. But I do think our recent shift to texting where we strive to keep it simple, get the idea across as succinctly as possible is changing our mode of thinking. Words are being replaced.

I don't know if it's good or bad. It's different -- things will be lost along the way. Will wherever we are bound replace what's lost with equally good new things? We are entering an ever more intense visual environment where poetry and it's dependence on strings of words may be supplanted.

Like standing at the end of a new world. I hope we know what we are doing.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: Just Kids Question #14 - Answer me, Americain!

Unread postby Buster » Sat Sep 07, 2013 5:56 pm

I'm going to have to think for a bit about what you said, firefly:
We are entering an ever more intense visual environment where poetry and it's dependence on strings of words may be supplanted.

My initial reaction is that perhaps poetry is very well suited to this brave new world. Even if narrative is lost (and I'm not convinced it will be), poetry does just fine at evoking emotion without it. Poetry works well even as the shortest of tweets - think of William Carlos Williams poem, "Walnut", which is just this: "Tiny vegetable turtle".

I think we'll be okay :)


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