I recently came across a colorful cartoon featuring a cluster of school children with iPhones poking a hardbound novel with a stick as if it were a mysterious relic.
I immediately thought: Is it true? Are books dead?
While pursuing my MFA in fiction at Manhattan's The New School in 2008, one of my favorite professors, novelist Darcey Steinke, boldly proclaimed that books would never disappear due to the fetish element associated with them. People will always want to feel the hard spine of the book, and the touch of the paper page, she said.
I sure as hell hope so.
As a writer, words make me hot. I can fall into rapture over one of Faulkner's long, gorgeous sentences. Also, great writing inspires me to reach higher in my work. Despite the fact that scores of young people scoff at anything longer than a tweet, I honestly don't think fiction will ever go away. And poets, of course, are tweeting some brilliant bits and turning on new followers daily.
But how can we keep literature really vital and exciting into the next century?
As I mused the concept, I turned to my poet friends. After all, poets have been struggling to keep an audience for longer than fiction writers. Trolling around the net, I came across a Brooklyn poetry event that had a good bit of sass and edge to it. Actually, it looked down-right exciting.
Parachute: Coney Island Performance Festival (Oct. 13-14) featuring two days of poetry, prose and jellfish, screams hip and fun. The poster has a bold vintage graphic of bikers clad in motorcycle jackets and features a bit of poetry:
Coney Island, Coney Island
Let me see,
Let me feel,
Let me know what is real
Let me Believe
I was thrilled to discover this hot and hip poetry happening so I reached out to Amanda Deutch, Artisitc Director of the event, to pick her brain. Her enthusiasm was like honey balm on a gnarly little liteary wound.
"Poetry is everywhere. It is language; It is in signage, eavesdropped conversations on the subway. Poetry is everything from Walt Whitman to Honey Boo Boo child," she said. "I've been looking my whole career for innovative ways to coax poetry into our daily lives. Poets reading in front of jellyfish are one way. So is reading on the mic in the ticket booth for El Dorado Bumper Cars -- site specific poetry."
Utterly inspired, I'm definitely stealing some of these awesome ideas for my next reading event. My only question: Honey Boo Boo (of TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo)?
"I didn't mean that Honey Boo Boo was a poet, though the language in her name is, but that even things like television can offer us poetry and be sources of inspiration," said Deutch.
Follow Scott Alexander Hess on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@scottalexhess