Dear Dispatches,
It’s a matter of creativity, and how ethics are attached to it. It will be a great day when professional poetry institutions begin acting with creative ethics that consistently express their respect for everyone in the field —when their respect for women or black poets, just for example, is so normal that it’s not worth mentioning. But these are hierarchal institutions whose favorites are established on digestive whims and their BroPo bias goes back to the Crustacean Period, when plant-eating dactyls battled meat-eating iambs on T.S. Eliot’s escape yacht. As such, I’d call them anti-poetry (with apologies to Nicanor Parra)—or you could say they can’t breathe the air that poetry lives on. The air that allows anarchy to take the form of plants.
That’s why I find it simpler and less painful to have no expectations whatsoever of people or institutions that trade in poetry as a profession. I don’t expect them to care about my writing, for example, but when they do show interest I’m happy to supply poems etc.
Cynical? Any time you’re playing a role, you’ve got to keep that question alive. But upon self-reflection, this capitulation to the capitulators has less to do with my hunger for attention (which is pretty insatiable anyway) and more to do with a long struggle to keep my own contempt at heel—or even well-heeled. For most of my middle age I suppose I’ve been working on an outer shell of well-heeled contempt. I find it’s much more supportable than the shell of bristling disgust I was dragging around before (but which I still keep in the shed, shiny and well-oiled).
The upshot of all of this is that I while I deplore the hypocrisy of the Poetry Industry, from MFA mills to online clearing houses, I also find it unsurprising and, in fact, I don’t really care about how these institutions behave in a crisis because I simply have no respect for their position on the critical question of meaningful survival—a question of living poetry which these institutions (and all institutions) cannot even frame.
Even the worst poet has more to say about this meaningful survival than his/her highly trained counterpart in the profession, whose base mediocrity is so powerful that it can convert the charms of bad poetry into toxic bullshit.
As for the satire at Dispatches, I love it, and it’s why I tune in.
How are you this morning?
Julien