SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER
Poetry is a method of expression that can be used by everyone for a variety of different purposes, both recreational and commercial.
Dave Lucas is the Chautauqua Writers’ Center poet-in-residence for Week Eight. He is the author of a book of poems titled Weather, which received the Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. He is the co-founder of Cleveland Book Week and Brews + Prose at Market Garden Brewery. From 2018 to 2019 he served as the Poet Laureate of Ohio, where he wrote a column called “Poetry for People Who Hate Poetry.”
The column that Lucas wrote while he was the Poet Laureate of Ohio is where he draws the inspiration for his Brown Bag, which he will be giving at 12:15 p.m. EDT today on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch.
He wrote 16 installments in the series and is going to select a few of them to highlight during the Brown Bag because he thinks they outline how he “fell in love” with poetry, both as a reader and a writer. Lucas finds that there tends to be a stigma around poetry — a stigma he thinks stems largely from how it is taught.
Lucas said other art forms like painting, or playing an instrument, require some sort of equipment in order to create them; but others, like dance and poetry, only need the human body in order to create the art. Even though poetry is often circulated on the page or on the screen, Lucas thinks that it is also experienced through the body.
“One of the things that I hope to do is to remind us that we live in language every day. We are always making art out of this (language),” Lucas said. “Poetry is sort of a natural extension of that.”
In his opinion, poetry — particularly in this era of poetry where typical literary devices like rhyme or meter aren’t frequently used — is either trying to maximize or minimize the difference between itself and “ordinary speech.” To Lucas, “ordinary speech” is the language we use every day.
In his own work, Lucas tries to maximize the difference between ordinary language in his poetry by focusing on how the poem sounds. In his book Weather, he said, there are lots of big, dramatic, continental clanging sounds. In his more recent work, he tries to be more deliberate and focus on the use of more simple rhymes and meters as a way to try and push the connection between poetry and song.
When he first began writing, Lucas said he was drawn to the idea that poetry offered wisdom or truth about the world. However, the more time he spent reading and writing poetry, he came to realize that poets don’t know more than anyone else about what it means to live a life. According to Lucas, what poets do is “put our not knowing into language in a way that sort of makes it musical.”
“I came to poetry looking for big answers, and when I didn’t find them, at least I was able to stay for the pleasure of using this language that we treat so often as an ordinary instrumental tool … (into) an instrument that we play to hear the pleasure of the sound of it,” Lucas said.
Lucas hopes that by talking about what people can gain from reading and using different approaches to writing, he can help the people who want to be able to write poems to put into their loved ones’ birthday cards, as well someone who is trying to get published.
“I’m not sure that anyone’s going to get any specific craft lesson from it,” Lucas said. “I think of it more as the craft of living a life that has poetry in it.”