Poetry: The Rebirth Of Wonder with Joyce Jenkins

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“Poetry and art saves lives,” says Jenkins. Host Phil Cousineau points out that poetry may not convey actual, factual experience but it is a true experience; it is a kind of hyper-truth, hyper-reality that goes beyond the facts. “When we attend a poetry reading you are invited to read, to write in some mysterious way, to join a community event in celebration of a rebirth of wonder. When you listen to a great poet, you think, ‘I’ve been asleep. Why didn’t I notice that about the stars in the Hercules constellation that Rexroth writes about in that beautiful piece about the Hercules constellation?’ It’s constantly pulling us back and saying, poets are paying attention to things and emotions that maybe you haven’t paid attention to for a while.” Jenkins shares Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s definition of poetry: “‘Poetry is not all heroine, horses and Rambo, it is also the powerless prayers of airline passengers fastening their seatbelts for the final descent. It is the real subject of great prose, it speaks the unspeakable, utters unutterable sigh of the heart. Each poem, a momentary madness and the unreal is realist. Poetry is a strange form of insanity, tempered by erotic bliss. A poem should still be an insurgent knock on the door of the unknown; like a bowl of roses a poem should not have to be explained. But he also said, of course, poetry, like love is a natural painkiller. It speaks our fears and loves out loud.” Jenkins reminds us of Diane di Prima’s great poem Rant in which “we are reminded that the only war that matters is the war against the imagination; all other wars are subsumed in that. We have to have the imagination, we have to have pleasure, we have to have play in order to live, to be fully human.” As Cousineau affirms, “The great poets are revealing discreet moments in which their own heart and soul lit up.” (hosted by Phil Cousineau)


Joyce Jenkins is the publisher of Poetry Flash, a bi-monthly poetry review and literary calendar print zine with an online companion. She is a chair of the Northern California Book Reviewers whose annual Northern California Book Awards are presented and co-sponsored by Poetry Flash. She has received the PEN Oakland Lifetime Achievement Award and the American Book Award. The city of Berkeley proclaimed a day for her in honor of the Berkeley Poetry Festival’s lifetime achievement award in 2009.

She’s the author of:

To learn more about Joyce Jenkins work go to www.poetryflash.org.

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How poetry leaps across time and inspires us
  • How people are absorbing poetry without even knowing it
  • Why is there a resurgence of poetry today in the form of poetry slams
  • How poetry brings us a kind of hyper-truth, a truth beyond mere facts
  • How veterans of war have used poetry to translate their experiences
  • How poetry was brought to street gangs of Los Angeles
  • How peace is an active thing we can feel through the dynamism of poetry
  • Why imagination is important for us to be fully human
  • What is the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival

Host: Phil Cousineau   Interview Date: 5/5/2014   Program Number: 3507

Music Playlist

From Album: The Lark's Bride
Artist: Radhika Miller and Eugene Friesen
1987 Radhika Miller Music #RMM 1107

Opening Essay: Track 01 The Lark’s Bride
Music Break 1: Track 01 The Lark’s Bride (reprise)
Music Break 2: Track 03 Skylarking
Music Break 3: Track 03 Skylarking (reprise)