First, a few words of introduction. My name is Adam Fieled, and I’m a poet based in Philadelphia. I got my undergrad degree at U of Penn, my MFA at New England College, and am now getting an MA (I’ve almost already gotten) and a PhD at Temple here in Philly. My books include Opera Bufa, When You Bit.., and Beams. I’ve also done a fair amount of recording, including two albums, Darkyr Sooner and Ardent. These are the facts; the truth, as Tom Stoppard pointed out in The Invention of Love, is something else entirely and is the product of our imaginations. The truth, in this case, is that I’m a gypsy artist in search of freedom: aesthetic, intellectual, social, sexual, psychological. My gyspy soul would love to take the first available plane to London, to celebrate poetry and freedom the way it is meant to be celebrated; unfortunately, monetary circumstances preclude this from being a feasible reality. Nevertheless, I would like to join in your festival in the most palpable way I can; by addressing poetry, freedom, and the conjunction of the two, that is as close to heaven as we are likely to experience in this world of strife and uncertainty.
What do we all see in poetry? Since I cannot speak for anyone else but myself, I will try to speak from as close to an imagined center as I can get. We are replenished by poetry not because it directly represents our world, but because it comes at our world from an angle (tell it slant, Dickinson said); what it shows us are forgotten pathways, missed connections, what glory lives in interstices, what we missed when we were going through the routines of toil, acquisition, loss and gain that constitute life in the material world. Poetry manages at once to be material and non-material; it is there, solid and chewable as bread, and yet it magic carpets us into this realm where the connections we missed provide edification, arousal, sustenance, determination and spiritual strength. This is how it sets us free.
There is, of course, work involved in the process. For every enlightened reader, there is a solitary artist struggling for expression, to find those missed connections, to forage in the interstices of consciousness. The work is back-breaking, lonely, frustrating, sometimes thankless, but it is one of the best bits of spiritual labor that a human being can engage in. I had a friend once tell me that being a Poet is like being a Priest; I would rather think of poets, the good ones, the real ones, as Bodhisattvas, carrying this troubled human tribe on their backs, moving things forward one heart-rending step at a time. For all of those who struggle for a scrap of real, hard-earned, cried-for, starved-for, bled-for bit of freedom, all of us owe many thanks (though we may be also rolling our own Sisyphean bolders up hills of our choosing). Think of those who fought most valiently; think of Lorca and Neruda, of Whitman and Hughes, of Ginsberg and Corso and Shelley. Shelley thought that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world; we know that, insane as his idealism seems, he was right. Poets shape the most crucial, most lasting cultural visions.
I am imagining myself now in London. It’s autumn and chilly and I am listening to someone read. I may be drunk or in the process of getting drunk; I may be on the prowl or contented; I may be waiting my turn to read or I might have already read. In any case, I hear a metaphor, a cadence, that is new and that sings to me; I hear a voice that expresses my own humanity, but in such a way that I have never it, or myself, before; I feel the words mix with the sensation of wine and I am not where I am, I am above myself, I am circling around the ceiling. I am listening to a poet do his job properly; I am experiencing art as it is meant to be experienced, in the flesh; I am one step closer to a permanent sense of emancipation from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I wish this experience to everyone who is taking part in the festival at hand. I am with you in spirit.