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Introduction for poetry reading by Kyle Conner

Kyle Conner is keenly, may I say severely, aware of how little the world-we-live-in thinks about poetry. He knows that no one is reading that great poet who sold 1,000 copies of his book. We think about poetry probably as often as people who live in South Florida walk to their local grocery. That it's about as important as the life of the occasional pedestrian trying to cross Highway 441 to get from the Starbucks to the Home Depot and back again to catch the occasional bus home. Kyle's not being a cranky o.g. like Larry Fagin in September 2001 issue of the Poetry Project Newsletter, he's just confronting the facts of life.

What we forget is that poetry is so ubiquitous it's actually invisible—dig advertising, dig music, dig cinema, dig television, dig the news, dig radio, dig the bible, the constitution. Anyone who wants to get somewhere quick with words employs poetry; even if it's bad poetry it's still poetry nonetheless. To everything turn turn turn, the soup Nazi, just do it, the quicker picker upper, I'd like to teach the world to sing, to office, from the studios of the banned and the fired, we hold these truths to be self-evident, all men are created equal, a rapper's delight. Dig every billboard, every poster, every bit of information and propaganda. Yet only when one of the few thousand committed contemporary poets outs themselves do we recognize that we still do poetry, are still concerned with it. When a friend invites us to her reading or asks us to buy his book we're shocked to be reminded that poetry is a living breathing art, mnemonic device, and method of carrying knowledge, as well as entertaining. Or like the young poet in the documentary Poetic License said, "I left hip-hop to be chillin' with the poets."

Kyle's poems wrassle popular culture by allusion, dig "love is the sweetest thing," isn't that the latest overblown hit by messianic U2? "Fish are jumping" starts Finesse Filibuster, dig summertime, the cotton is high. Kyle takes this conceptual union to a cinematic realm. He tries his best to de-ramify the miscommuniqué. He challenges the refrain: I say things I don't mean. He says what he means, and he means it. He laughs conspicuously yet appreciates blunt attempts at sincerity.

Last week I read Kyle's poems at a pool in Boca Raton, underneath a blue sky punctuated by billowy clouds, surrounded by coral-colored townhomes, digging people of all ages and shapes half-naked, a most absurd location, yet perfect. Pretty much everyone in South Florida lives in cordonned-off developments, walled suburbs, all with a swimming pool, some with a golf course, and even fewer, the more exclusive ones, with full-blown country clubs. Those who don't are de facto second-class citizens. South Florida is the perfect metaphor for our current and future society. We're continually moving toward alienation and paid access to all culture. A world of two classes, those who can afford access and those who can not like those that live underground in Demolition Man. Kyle declares that the dream only works if you don't try to penetrate beyond it. Poetry penetrates the dream. It's freely written and freely given. It reveals the double scam of manufactured need and the product to fulfill it. It debunks the age of access because there is no price of admission.
--For La Tazza Reading Series, Philadelphia, June 9, 2001