Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Why We Do What We Do" by James Brown

James Brown is great live. He has had a lot of success, having published several collections of his funny, satirical and clever poetry with VUP. He has also won an armload of awards and residencies during his time. But it's when I see him read to an audience that he seems in his element.

Afterward, the crowd drifts away energised and uplifted. This may be because Brown's readings are self deprecating and funny, and it may be because he knows how to read a crowd, pausing at the right times, laughing at others. But it could also be because he seems like a normal guy. He gives other writers hope that, one day, they might be as relaxed with their own work as Brown appears at the podium.

“Why We Do What We Do” is one of my favourite James Brown poems because it gives me the same satisfaction as seeing him read. The poem is from The Year of the Bicycle (2006), a book that circles around Brown's obsession with mountain biking. It comes toward the end of the book and as part of a longer series. The poem can be read as a justification for having spent so much time writing poetry about his favourite subject. But if you flip that around, the poem can be seen as an encouragement to write about what interests you.

For this reason, “Why We Do What We Do” is the perfect poem for the Christmas post.

Since Tuesday Poem started in April this year, up to thirty Tuesday Poets have committed to posting poems weekly on their personal blogs and linking to the Tuesday Poem hub here via the live blog roll (see sidebar). The poems are written by themselves and other poets whose permission they have. As Tuesday Poem Editor, they are also rostered on to select and post poems on the hub.

The depth and breadth of the poetry selections and associated commentaries - by poets from NZ, the US, the UK, Ireland, and Australia - has been breathtaking. Also exciting is the interaction between poets and readers in the comments at the bottom of the posts. For Christmas, the Tuesday Poets have been paired as in 'Secret Santa' (when gifts are exchanged), and are posting poems or other offerings by their 'partner' poet.

We want to celebrate what interests us as writers, and our own voices. We also want to celebrate the Tuesday Poem which provides one more way to fit poetry into our lives. So check out the different blogs to see ones from our “shelf.” If “there's something / you want to hear, / you can sing it / yourself.”

Merry Christmas!

Sarah Jane Barnett is the week's Tuesday Poem editor and organiser of our 'Secret Santa'. Based in Wellington New Zealand, she is a writer, reviewer, and PhD student at Massey University exploring the prose poem. In her spare time, she makes things out of fabric and tries to live sustainably. Sarah blogs here. Why We Do What We Do is posted with permission.


Robert Sullivan said...

Great selection. I have never heard James Brown live, so to me this is just an impressive poem that stands on its own merits. I love its self-sufficiency, its capability to have a life of its own, the statements posed as questions have so much balance in the line movements as they leap, and I love the poem's delight in being a poem.

Jane said...