A Dispatch From the People's Poetry Gathering

"America doesn't have a unifying folk culture," Pinsky told a group of students Friday. "We are many folk." The challenge for the Gathering was to present those folk in a way that wasn't academic or museumlike. "We're experimenting," said Zeitlin. "We're trying many different things this year to see what works." The organizers— and all the participants I spoke with— hope this becomes an annual event. The festival seemed incredibly well run, and attendance was good. I didn't witness a single dead event, even though Cooper Union's Great Hall is a dry, sight line­impaired, subterranean venue. After the very wet confessions of Kimiko Hahn and Reggie Cabico's drag queen supermodel haiku, I ended the weekend feeling not sick of words, but mourning what I had to miss. My favorite event was the Edgar Allan Poe tribute Saturday at midnight: a hundred people in the East Village's Marble Cemetery reading "The Raven" in eerie but cheery unison. "If your poem doesn't have more than yourself in it, it's not going to last," Bly told an audience the next day. But if others can put themselves into your poem, then it's good forevermore.

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