Book Fest keynote writes for an audience

Bazzett talks about topics from the wow-factor of Stranger Things to the ability to instantly share a poem on social media

Mike Bazzett, a widely recognized poet and author, will speak to students in the MS and US Assemblies on Nov. 13. Some of his more well known work includes the chapbook You Must Remember This, winner of the 2014 Lindquist & Vennum prize for poetry, and Our Lands are Not So Different.

Part of what inspired Bazzett to publish his work was the desire for an audience. “Once most writers start writing seriously, I think they want an audience. I like to engage an audience,” he said.

From Bazzett’s perspective, writers are formed by responding to the world around them.

“I think there’s some cultural mythology that a writer is someone who stands on a cliff looking off into the distance. To me, a writer is someone who takes raw material that we all of access to, language, and they take that raw material that’s available to everybody and make something special,” he said.

For high schoolers interested in becoming a writer, Bazzett said to pick up a book that’s well written and excites them: “Read…what they want to read, not what they’re supposed to. In life, pay attention to words, and use them.”

In life, pay attention to words, and use them.”

— Mike Bazzett

Bazzett began writing, “…a long time ago. I would say it was very much an extension for me of the reading process. I think it’s that notion that when you read something or you hear a story or you watch ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix, you think ‘Wow,’ and you’re transported. And then you’re like, ‘Well, could I do that? Could I do something that would have an effect on someone?’ I was a very eclectic reader, so that stemmed from that as well.”

As for himself, Bazzett said, “I write things I would like to read. Once most writers start writing seriously, I think they want an audience. I like to engage an audience. I had a few hundred poems that I’d published over the years, and so a lot of that [process] was ruthlessly cutting [them] to fit into 68 pages.” He adds that when the books arrived,  “It was a pretty wonderful moment when I held it in my hands. I’m just excited for the one that came out two weeks ago as I was for the first one.”

So why poetry? Why does Bazzett believe this genre speaks to him, to students, to our nation?

“It’s kind of a new time for poetry right now in the U.S.” he said. “The fact that you can hold a poem in your hand, and the way social media/smart phones/platforms share information, it’s going to be a really interesting time coming up. Given the compression of poetry and the fact that it’s designed to give you bang for your buck, they can literally fit into the screen of your phone.”