On Poems “Worth Spreading”

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Sometime in the history of your internet use, you have probably watched, been emailed, or seen a link to a TED Talk. TED (“Technology, Entertainment, Design”) Talks grew out of TED Conferences, which, according to TED’s own history, used to be “invitation-only events.” In 2006, TED Talks containing “the best TED content” reached the internet, and now, almost a decade later, www.ted.com advertises “1900+ talks to stir your curiosity.” 
 
TED’s slogan, “Ideas worth spreading,” invites questions: whose ideas get circulated, which ideas get circulated, and in what manner? Benjamin Bratton’s 2013 TEDx Talk (“What’s Wrong with TED Talks?”) provides pointed commentary on the TED project. 
 
I recently watched poet and critic Stephen Burt’s TED Talk, entitled “Why People Need Poetry,” and am inspired to share it here. Burt works with the TED Talk’s formal constraints–brevity, dynamism–to enact his love of, and need for, poetry. He talks viewers through rigorous and inviting close readings of favorite poems (by Rae Armantrout, John Keats, and others) that demonstrate poetry’s ability to produce and elicit associative constellations of thought and feeling. After listening to the talk I found myself invigorated by Burt’s enthusiasm for a “set of techniques” I also love.
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