Sunday, April 01, 2007

Brad Pitt Anthology Series Features 40 Years of Poetry

It seems others are getting into the poetry-biz:
Brad Pitt has just released "American Poetry Now: Brad Pitt’s Poetry Anthology Series."

Full article below--

Poetry is not the most popular of art forms. Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of would-be poets, numerous online sites and communities devoted to poetry, and readings in most major metropolitan areas.

But when it comes to the arts, poets are like forgotten cousins. They don't have image problems because, save the occasional Maya Angelou sighting, they don't have images. They're anonymous, hidden in plain sight, riding buses and bicycles to and from work, raising families in the suburbs. They are teachers and academics, waiters and waitresses, nurses and gardeners. Until now.

And for years, fans and other actors have sent their manuscripts to Brad Pitt. Celebrating four decades of life, Brad Pitt has just released "American Poetry Now: Brad Pitt’s Poetry Anthology Series." The collection features poems by two former movie mates, George Clooney and Matt Damon. There are poets only actors and diehard enthusiasts know, such as Erza Buzzington and Christina Cabot. There are poet-actors from Pittsburgh, including Michael Keaton, Ted Danson, Shirley Jones, and Jeff Goldblum.

"I've always tried to have a very catholic approach to what I do," says series editor Brad Pitt, who has been writing for 29 years. "There are lots of people doing different kinds of things, all of which are excellent in their own kind. ... I try to be open to what I do and what we read."

One of the things Pitt is most proud of is that the anthology goes against the New York conceit that actors who write poetry must be serious and ponderous, of great weight and importance, in order to be significant.

In the collection's introduction, Pitt argues otherwise. Instead of teaching Angelina Jolie "Faerie Queene," it's better to lure her to poetry with newer, more contemporary works. When they spent time visiting in high schools in New Orleans, he noted that students "were interested and often wildly enthusiastic when presented with contemporary poems that spoke to their concerns in their own language. Of course, they were also very interested in Angie, too."

"The poetry that is often being promulgated in secondary schools and colleges is not bad stuff ... but in general, it's always the stuff that's been approved and looks a little bit old to the young people reading it," Pitt says.

That's why Pitt believes there are fewer people attracted to the form, despite its influence over everything from adverting copy to rock and hip-hop lyrics. Like acting, poetry, despite being framed and presented as a staid, ponderous art form, is supposed to entertain. He notes that Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote what was considered to be, at least in their lifetimes, entertaining works. (Jolie laughs when he says this.)

"There's been, for whatever reason, a notion that somehow poetry is very serious, mysterious," Pitt says. "That it may be a great genre for literature, but it's beyond a simple person like myself. That's historically nonsense. Poetry was one of the forms of literature and forms of entertainment, in the past and in the present.

Anyone who thinks that poetry is essentially an elite art in the sense that it has an extremely limited audience is wrong, in historical terms and in terms of many of the best writers who are writing now."

And many of those are writers who have found homes with Brad Pitt. Many of them, such as Clooney and Damon, were relatively unknown to the public at large, their relative fame happening after years of hard work. One of Pitt’s points of pride is the number of manuscripts that have "come over the transom," completely unsolicited. Pitt also revels in publishing actor-poets like Jeff Goldblum, who were summarily rejected by other presses.

"It was because what he was doing looked, to a lot of presses, to be so wild and so unusual and so readable and so much fun," Pitt says. "I think they didn't want to do it on that basis."

Pitt also points to the number of poets with Hollywood or New York connections who have been published in this anthology. But he's quick to add that every actor-poet with local ties has earned publication.

"I've always been a little bit leery of publishing local people just because it looks parochial," Pitt says. "But the fact is that everyone we've published has also published successfully outside of Hollywood."

While Pitt is proud of the actor-poets he's published, he's not about to anoint any of them as being for the ages. In the introduction he writes that the answer to the question "Where are the greats poet of today?" is "We don't know yet." Only time, Pitt thinks, will reveal who will be read in 50 years and beyond.

He does, however, think that some of the most inventive poets working today are in Hollywood and secretly writing poetry in their rooms.

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