On Several Points
"How can I assume something like that, that though she went on the road and
became a successful poet that her poetry won't be great, perhaps not even very
Spivack's comment on celebrity is interesting. As I see it, quality is never
based on celebrity or popularity. Quality of any of the arts is rare, really
rare, and only time truly marks the differences. Many quite mediocre but "pop"
or popular artists have made it. I could go on for days about the decline in
art/painting to mediocre squirt bottle paintings or the raves over folks with
lack of education or practice in just the rudimentary elements of drawing,
structure and anatomy, color theory and form...but who cares. The "squirter"
gang sells. Being a contemporary classical painter, I do care. Mumble. Mumble.
Alas. As a fine poet, you care that mediocrity ofttimes 'wins the day', but
best not to worry about it.
Yes, there is a poetry "road" again, and certainly group popularity and one's
personal appearance is part of "making it" or a name for oneself. But you don't
need to go the performance route, not that you ever would. The modern landscape
of publishing has changed drastically, as has the music recording business due
to the technological breakthroughs of do-it-yourself stages such as YouTube and
internet self-promotion. It is glorious, as far as I'm concerned. Signing with
a publisher was a hard game back in the 70's and 80's, and probably always.
You sold your works for pennies while the Publisher got the rest AND owned your
creative works in perpetuity! Not so powerful anymore, these corporate monsters!
Live performance did help some poets. I remember Alan Ginsberg coming to our
shows and reciting 'himself', as did the others in his "gang" at Glassboro. He
wasn't a really popular poet with all the girls in the beginning...(grabbing
girl's rears and being out of control). He was young then...before his more
religious self emerged. Unpopular that is until he gathered fame...then the
opportunistic "groupies" amassed before him, seeking some of his indirect light
of fame and fortune. By the 70's he was being chased by them! But the press
loved him...because he was so public and outrageous. Still, live performance
did indeed create his popularity. (But J.D. Salinger gained even more fame
being a completely hidden recluse!) So both extremes can work. It took Alan
some years to develop respectability and awards though.
My friend, the Troubadour, is the Leader of the Band of many, and travels from
England to the states often. He does tours all over Europe too, where his
original music is extremely popular. The road was hard on his wife and
marriage. And oh he loves his "groupie" wife.
I have witnessed this before. The wife resents all the glory and friendships of
the Troubadour and sets out to try to vie for his fan's and followers. Somehow
these women forget that the Troubadour's popularity is because he has talent.
(I must say this jealousy does happen in reverse as well, and there are male
The groupie (or camp follower as we often joked) generally has none of the
mate's talent, or at least not equal to his light in any way, but it seems they
never acknowledge that. In this particular case she hated his "freedom" and
disliked staying at home watching their two children, and has reached out to
all his friends and fans...while completely closing him out. He never saw it
coming. Her parents have taken the two children (in London) while she has run
off to visit various Facebook friends in the USA and Canada.
Now in this age of social media popularity it happens quite publicly...easily
observed by all. He has written songs about his love for her for years, and
even included her in his various social media sites. She loved it, and started
using the opportunity to promote herself, though there was no perceivable
talent, albeit being his cute little red-headed wife. It started out seemingly
innocently with her writing his fans. She now thinks she walks on water. It
truly is just frozen ice on a lake, which will thaw, as I have reminded him.
And if he still loves her, he might want to be there when she sinks.
As for the "Poet's road", at least here in the states, it is a way to grow your
name, sell your own books and for my poet friends doing it, it is a way to test
their work and also to "meet the women", still. Much like the Comedy clubs help
the comediennes, they too have "the road". So many places are cropping up in
every little village across the U.S. again where artist's can hawk their
wares...it reminds me of the sixties. Coffee houses were bustling with business
throughout the world during Alan, Kerouac, and Sylvia's and Ted's time. The
folking days, where beatniks gathered. :)
Sherrie in Wake Forest