[lit-ideas] Re: American poetic scene at the beginning of 72 page 2

  • From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2006 23:55:39 -0500

The student-reader community is seldom right about poetry, or to be less dogmatic here, the student-reader community has an unschooled opinion.

I have no problem with this except, of course, that there's nothing in
poetry to be "right" about. There are various levels of sophistication, to
be sure, and often those levels are derived through schooling. But schooling or the
study of poetry can be and often is antithetical to the soul of poetry and it's

Poetry and the traditions of poetry are important especially because they preserve cultural values,

No, no, no, no. If you want to use schools to preserve cultural values, then teach history, sociology, political science, anthropology, religion, ethics but for God's sake don't cheapen poetry by making it a vehicle for cultural propaganda -- I mean 'values.'

...contemporary poets now give us prose lineated as poetry, as generation after generation of poets was taught to abandon meter and metaphor altogether in favor of trying to write philosophy, social commentary, private diaries, and essays with a ragged right edge.

If you had written "some contemporary poets", I could agree with you. Of
those who do write philosophy, social commentary, private diaries and essays
in the guise of poetry, some write really lousy poetry and some write
brilliant poetry. It's not the subject of poetry that matters, it's the

Now poetry is belittled and marginalized -- no longer a force for anything in culture, except among an increasingly alienated elite who find it difficult to say just what it is they're doing, and why, to ordinary people.

Poetry has always been the concern of an alienated elite. So has ballet. So too philosophy. So too physics. So too most art. Poetry is never going to be able to compete with Reality TV or sports or films, so get over it.

The politics of poetry are so vicious because the stakes are so small,

I didn't know there was a politics of poetry, so I'll have to take you word for it.

Instead of apprenticeship to poetry, we have an ultrademocratized easy-and-fun-for-beginners approach, based on a sense that students can never be wrong.

You sound as though you believe poetry is a hieratic pursuit. Poets, priests. T. S. Eliot, indeed. Give me Ginsberg yawping for Ike to go fuck himself with his atom bomb any day of the week. Poetry schmoetry. T. S. Eliot was an idiot. He couldn't even write his own poetry, had to have the little fascist edit it for him. Schoolmarm poetry, I call it. You beweep the lack of apprenticeships to poetry -- what the hell are you talking about, they're a dime a dozen. Every university in the country has MFA programs in creative writing. What we need is LESS official meddling in poetry, not more.

It's not progress. It's not liberating. It's not cool. It's the tedious "old spontaneous me" of Whitman imitation. Get out the old bongo drums, snap your fingers, then walk home amid the blowing trash and waste of a million egotists who never can be wrong.

Maynard Krebs has passed from the scene, Eric. You need to update your effigies. I don't know the NYC poetry scene, but I'd be mightily surprised if it's anything like your portrayal. In fact, I don't know any of the poetry scenes anywhere in the world. In fact (lots of facts here), the last thing I want to experience is a poetry scene. I hate poets. I've only known a few personally and I disliked all of them. They thought themselves precious and I hate precious people. But I love poetry. I love all kinds of poetry. I also hate a lot of poetry. A lot that's supposed to be canon crap. But there you go. I now love some poems that I used to hate. I now hate some poems I used to love. Was I wrong before? Of course not. There's no right or wrong in poetry. I'm just a different person now.

This all started with Lawrence saying he didn't like Berryman's poetry nearly as much as he used to after reading Berryman's biography. That's absurd, I said. Berryman's life should have absolutely nothing to do with whether you like his poetry or not. A poem is NOT the poet. From there it morphed into what was the poet's intention or meaning in writing the poem. Lawrence insisted that such was essential to understanding the poem. I screamed YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND POETRY, you can only experience it. What is the meaning of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony? What is the meaning of a Jackson Pollock painting, what is the meaning of a sunset, what is the meaning of a Martha Graham dance, what is the meaning of the Taj Mahal? What is the meaning of poetry? No meaning, just the lighting up of one's life -- that trope for RP's benefit.

Mike Geary

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