Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stephen Colbert and Charles Olsen

                Stephen Colbert uses witty satire and seemingly boundless energy to entertain his viewers. He brings up news and questions in a comedic way to attract people while enlightening them. His questions and responses may seem like jokes, but can insightful questions. In his interview with Elizabeth Alexander, he asked questions about the purpose of poems and its literary technique. Olsen’s response to Colbert’s questions would be based on his belief of what a poem is and its purpose.


Colbert quickly starts the comedic questions right when he sits down on the chair. He asks “poems aren’t true, are they?”(Colbert) While comedic and easily misunderstood, the question does have a reason more than just for laughs. Colbert follows his question will concern that a poem he recently read was an accurate description of his life and future. He was concern that if poems are actual facts. He was afraid that the poem was telling him “no matter what he achieves in his life that he is never really going to be great.”(Colbert) Colbert in the end is actually asking, what is the purpose of poems? Is it meant to be factual information or something else? If Olsen was to answer the question he would bring up his belief “a poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it.”(Projective Verse) Olsen believes that influences in a poet’s life allows the poet to the create poems. The poet has thoughts and believes from these influences and tries to express them in a form of a poem. The readers can then see the message in the poems. The poets beliefs feels true to the readers and it allows people to connect with poems. I believe his response would be similar to Alexander’s in the sense that poems is not “strictly factual, but a poem should be, in some way, emotionally true, [and] true to the language that it has.” (Alexander) Olsen would say that poems are not meant to state facts but gives a point of view and allow the reader to see that point of view and think about it. Just as his poems about the change in Gloucester were meant for people to see though his eyes, poems are the energy passed though the poets to the reader.


Colbert follows up with his question, “What is an occasional poem?” (Colbert) Alexander responds by responding with the factual answer being that an occasional poem is just for a certain occasion. Colbert then relates her poem to comical theme and goes deeper into how it “only makes sense when you are at Thunder Dome.” (Colbert) Alexander then proceeds to point out that the poem should be used to “mark the occasion but write words that will last afterwards and be useful afterwards in some kind of way.” (Alexander) Olsen would completely agree with Alexander’s idea of the occasional poem. Olsen’s Maximus poems are similar to “Praise Song for the Day.” Olsen’s Maximus poems were created for the occasion of the sudden change in the old city of Gloucester. Old buildings were being taken down and his town was changing from the once humble fishing community. He knew that Gloucester was changing, but the right change for the fishing community. His poems was specifically about Gloucester but is also meant to have a lasting affect. Generations later should listen to Olsen’s message and remember what Gloucester is and make the right choices for it. The poem can also be interpreted for other communities or even other elements of life. Even though poems can be occasional poems, both Alexander and Olsen would agree that words should be used in a way so that the lesson can be still used after the occasion is long past.


Colbert’s quick tosses of comedic questions and comments hold deep questions. When he asks if poems were real, he asked about the purpose of the poem and how it should be understood. Both Alexander and Olsen will have similar response in which they both believe that poems not facts but it can have a message that is true to the reader. When he brings up the point about occasional poems, Alexander relays her idea of how a poem’s lesson can still live on similar to the purpose of the creation of the Maximus poems. Although Alexander and Olsen created different poems from different occasions, they both would answer Colbert’s humor in a similar way.

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