MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Now some thoughts on poetry and the quest to be profound. Andrei Codrescu hasn't always been a commentator for this program. He once had another line of literary work.

ANDREI CODRESCU: I once had a job writing fortune cookies for an adult fortune-cookie factory in San Francisco for $5 a fortune. And I got to say things like, you owe me $100 or read this twice, you still won't understand it. I quit and stopped the poetry, which pays nothing, but keeps its dignity. I could now say things like, the happy man needs no prose. The last fortune cookie I got said, you will know the truth in time, which I always suspected and the truth is that time will make truth irrelevant because by the time you find it, you won't have any feelings about it - about truth, I mean.

Time is truth and there is no truth in time, as John Keats never said, but timekeeper is the best job you can have. This is my job. I'm a watch with feelings. The truth is also that the fortune cookies I didn't write had as much truth in them as the ones I did write. You just had to think about them more. When I first started writing, every poet wanted to be profound. Then every poet tried hard not to be profound, and that was a lot harder. Now, in the future, profound is everywhere, in every fortune cookie and commercial.

So there is considerably less pressure on poets � except to make money, of course, but to make money you must use prose. It's like they say about the president: running is poetry, governing is prose. Me, I just run. I'm so poetic, I date all my letters 2010 already, and sometimes even 2011 and 2012. I just don't email them. So, in time, you'll find a stash of my letters dated in the future that will be well passed by the time you find them. And they will say things like, I told you so, or if you say that again, it'll be a quote. Happy New Year.

NORRIS: Andrei Codrescu is editor of Exquisite Corpse, a literary journal. You can find it at corpse.org.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.