Some people don’t “get” poetry because they’re exclusively visual thinkers. For many others of a more practical frame of mind, the seemingly arbitrary arrangement of words into lines, stanzas, and units of meaning constitutes the main stumbling-block. Debates about how to reach those kinds of folks are anything but academic if you’re on a committee charged with selecting and presenting poetry to an indifferent public.
Well, I’m here to help. I’ve taken the complete texts of the first ten poems in my Public Poems series and run them through Wordle (thanks, John) which discards the most common words (a, on, the, etc.) and puts all the others into a configurable word cloud, a variation on the tag clouds familiar to anyone who spends an appreciable amount of time online. I then made an audio recording of the cloud (here’s a download link for those who can’t see the Flash player above). This sort of thing could be broadcast over a public address system at regular intervals wherever the poetry clouds are displayed, with results perhaps comparable to the well-known consequences of backmasking on vinyl records of heavy metal music back in the 1980s, only without the sacrifices of family pets. From these dense clouds a kind of condensation would take place, poetry falling like rain on the parched soil of the imagination. Or not.