I'm working on my 2nd. novel now, THE POET, but I'm taking my time. They say it's 101 [degrees] today. Fine then, I'm drinking coffee and rolling cigarettes and looking out at the hot baked street and a lady just walked by wiggling it in tight white pants, and we are not dead yet.You read that in a letter and it is smoking-hot prose that makes you want to go get drunk with the guy. That's a paragraph that could only be written by the coolest person you know. But somehow, his poetry all sounds exactly like that. And, for me at least, in the context of a "poem," I would probably feel that it was trying to hard. Or, rather, trying too hard in some ways and not hard enough in others. Maybe it is the extra expectation that is placed on words when you call them a poem, or maybe the sense of deliberateness that it implies. I'm not sure.
I think when I read that paragraph as a spontaneous statement, it crackles, but if I assume that it is deliberately crafted art, the crackle goes away. It makes me wonder if it would seem as compelling if it were written in 2001, rather than 1971, using a word processor rather than a typewriter. Maybe even the typo in "degrees" is key in conveying the authenticity / spontaneity of the statement.
Anyway, Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing got the letter from the tumblr this isn't happiness, which is full of cool stuff. If you don't already follow it, you should. Here are just a few of many, many gems to be found there (arranged roughly from FTW to WTF):