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On poetry, John Wayne, and jazz

17 April 2012

One of the most remarkable things about blogging remains the number of strangers that email me that they have read something I have posted and like it. I assume that there are many who do not like what they read here, but they do not bother to write.

My blog statistics tell me that the number of people coming to  MontanaWriter continues to grow. In the month of March, there were almost 12,000 unique visitors from all over the world. By blog standards, that is a modest number. But since MontanaWriter began two years ago with zero readers, I remain amazed.

One of the other things my blog statistics tell me is that the search term that brings the most people to MontanaWriter is one for John Wayne. The numbers are not even close. On a blog that is mostly about poetry, that has many more references to W.B. Yeats and lyric poetry than to movies, it is curious that so much traffic comes from The Duke.

It is not surprising, though. More than 30 years after his death, John Wayne remains the definitive movie star: iconic and bigger than life. For many he is also symbolic of something vital that it “feels” like we have lost.

What that thing that we have lost is is difficult to define.  It is also difficult to know if it really ever existed at all, or is merely something we wish once existed: some golden era of shared values and understanding that made us all better. Either way John Wayne the actor, the icon, represents something more than just movies or Hollywood or acting technique.

I have loved John Wayne movies all my life. Growing up when and where I did it was natural to love westerns. And if you love westerns, it is inevitable that you will love John Wayne movies because most of the best westerns ever made starred The Duke. There are a handful that star other actors, but they are just that: a handful.

I have always felt more than a bit sorry for those who say they do not like westerns. It is the same way I feel when someone says they do not like baseball (or basketball or football), or reading, or jazz, or poetry, or bourbon, or country music. It is unfathomable to me that someone can live without those things that seem to me so essential to life.

I hope that those who stumble upon MontanaWriter while looking for articles on The Duke are not greatly disappointed to find poetry reviews here, or articles about baseball, or theological comments. I also hope that those who came here for a review of a poem by William Morris or William Blake are not disappointed to find articles about westerns and John Wayne here. For me, all these things seem inseparable, naturally related: Yeats read dime westerns, John Ford read Yeats, theology of culture is all inclusive.

The blogosphere is about interconnectivity… not just of people but also of ideas. In the end, I think it is this “new community” of ideas that is the web’s greatest promise. Poetry, John Wayne, and jazz can inhabit a place together on the web that they could never have in the old, pre-digital age. In fact, in 2012, poetry, John Wayne and jazz seem inextricably mixed, pilgrim.






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