A few days ago I attended a reading by two highly respected (among writer types) poets, at a cafe' in Brooklyn. Some of the faces I knew from their book covers or Facebook presence; some I had met in passing at other events; some I had known years before, as colleagues and co-readers, but had not seen for a long time. The hosts, also established poets, were friends. Very few of the thirty-odd people there were not accomplished, widely published poets.
This gathering represents one stratum of the poetry scene, at least on a night like this one. These are the people on the scene who live and derive a living from it: those who have taken years to study and master their craft, those who have worked hard at getting their work together and out, those who have sought and found jobs teaching creative writing at universities and in workshops around the country, those who talk to each other about the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference the way that families talk about their annual reunions. All were gathered to listen. Only a few read in the open mic afterwards, and then only a poem each. And all had come to hear one of the headliners sing with his band (He was actually very good).
Do these people set the standard for dedication to poetry? Are they those whom others on many scenes across the nation aspire to be? Is this the life?