This might seem like a superficial post, and perhaps it is, but I am curious about something. Who is the most "famous" writer you've seen read in person?
That's right, who is it? And think about it for a second. Because that brings up the issue of "famous." How do we determine fame? What's the criteria? Is it their craft as a poet? Is it their superstar popularity? (Maybe.) Perhaps it's their longetivity. I'm not going to define it for you. That's something you'll have to do for yourself.
Me? It's a tough call. My first "famous" poet I ever saw read was Garrett Hongo in Knoxville TN. He was pretty interesting, although I didn't get to speak with him personally. However, at the risk of offending Mr. Hongo, I would wager he's not as "famous" as the next two writers I'm about to mention.
Let's see ... Hongo was in the 1980s. Maybe this is the best way to do it. In the 1990s, I was fortunate enough to see Diane di Prima read in Santa Monica CA. That meant a lot to me, because I've been a big fan of the Beats in general for decades, and because she and I had corresponded for a while and it was nice to finally meet her in person.
In 2004, I drove to Atlanta, in part because I was scheduled to give two poetry readings of my own, and in part to meet some friends to go to Emory University and see Gerald Stern read. I have a hard time believing he's more "famous" than di Prima, but then I'm biased. All I know is, the auditorium was freakin' PACKED and he definitely was enjoying rock star status (on a literary scale). He put on a good show, but it wasn't my style. He was trying out some new work, and it didn't resonate as much with me as much as his older material. But that's subjective, isn't it?
I was going to go on here and write about others I've enjoyed, but that would be off topic, wouldn't it? And I didn't really answer my own question, did I? To me, di Prima and Stern would be tied in terms of fame, with di Prima due more to cultural history and Stern due to academic literary acceptance. Am I wrong? Maybe another day I'll write about some lesser known authors I've seen read who I have seriously enjoyed, although perhaps they were not as "famous" as other people out there. OK?
Causes Scott Holstad Supports
PEN, The Authors Guild, Sierra Club