JEFFREY BROWN:Finally tonight, another in our series of poets from around the country and the world. Tonight, Karena Youtz of Boise, Idaho. Her husband is lead singer for the rock band Built To Spill. Her most recent collection of verse is titled The Shape is Space.
KARENA YOUTZ: My name is Karena Youtz. I’m a poet. I am a mother. I write lyrics for my husband’s rock band. (singing)
KARENA YOUTZ: He writes the majority of his work. So when I’m called in, it’s because he’s frustrated. And then by that time, I’m working with really specific requirements, like this has to be a six syllable line that ends in a long A. And I don’t do that to myself when I write poetry ever. (singing)
KARENA YOUTZ: To me, the poem exists. It just needs to be written down. So my job is to try to be as accurate as possible in bringing a poem onto a piece of paper. Living in Idaho has helped me write poetry immensely, because I live in a place that does not have a poetry scene or a poetry school. Here, we live in the desert. So our world is basically made up by us.
A lot of poetry readings I go to, people say, well, this is what you need to know about this poem. And that drives me nuts. If you need to know something about my poem, it’s in the poem, every time. It’s not on the outside.
Public fruit — the purpose of this life is to see directly, not literally, but current. Public love only prophecy sounds libertine. I blushed when I watched the blossom cherish the branch. But who could love anyone more than the tree loves the plum?
I had given a close friend of mine my book. And he was standing at my door, thanking me for it. And he said, oh, it’s — it’s really neat, you know, that you keep this up, you know, because poetry is basically a dead art. To me, of course, it’s not.
So I wrote a poem called A Note on Relevance.
A friend not unkindly said poetry is a dead art. Yeah, lots of poets share futility, like how dead people are useless and living always turns out, sometimes incredibly lonely, laying on the floor of the hole. No human activity, no toil, no act dead or vital has ever striven more. By a living art, does one mean included in economic transactions, making what cannot be avoided? Does my friend mean poetry has no audience? Don’t worry, he will not read this. I am not performing, drawing lines toward secret shapings in their stocks. Listening exists. Upon the ear, poetry acts. And hearing is the last sense lost.