Hi Kent, Apologies for the long delay in responding–your message came just as I was returning to the States, and it took me a few months to find my bearings and get stable again after a year or so of flux. I did read your Rain Taxi interview, though, and passed it on to some friends. It’s a great conversation, and I especially love the nuance you take towards the question of political poetry (rightly both commending and calling out some of the self-congratulatory hyper-conspicuous politics of the Bay Area).
On that note, I’ve been wondering, too, since your piece in Lana Turner appeared, if this idea–of a congress of avant-minded poets–is even possible, or what it could accomplish. Certainly poets are already marginalized, but would having a centralized, amplified voice offset the various flows of capital moving away from writers? Sheer number could amend this, but then there would be a sizable chance of it devolving into something as neutered and centrist as “Writers Against Trump.”
There’s another danger, too, of, as you mention in that same interview, show-trials–activism used as a mask for aesthetic wars and cultural capital. I think the past few years have seen a lot of legitimate (and successful!) efforts to create a more democratic and equitable national poetry community, but the assumption beneath that is that such a community even exists. I’m not sure it does, not as anything more than the conglomerate of a variety of regional and aesthetic communities, and without that underlying shared basis, I just don’t trust very many poets to have legitimate goals beyond their own self-advancement (or group advancement). And what might make it even worse–though this isn’t the fault of your proposal–would be the focus on poets as an already-made (and therefore distinct) community, one that doesn’t include non-poets: it feeds into the myth that poets are somehow different from or better than non-poets–a myth many writers have internalized and which absolutely demolishes any chance of their having an actionable politic.
Maybe that’s deeply cynical, though I also think it’s tempered by my experience in Argentina and the shock of returning from such a welcoming community. It was–not entirely, but mostly–absent of the sort of career-navigating that you get so much of here in US poetry, and there was a heightened focus on dailiness, on openness, on living in an extant community rather than an academic one. I wonder if the lack of poetry-as-institution there (no MFA to tie tenure to) helps that, though it also breeds a sense of Buenos-Aires-based insularity, which, to the extent that it ignores what happens in the long-abused interior, is a form of exclusion.
Anyway–the work I’m doing from that experience goes on: I’ve been going through a pretty large stack of books and journals, and working on a few translations–some from Reynaldo, and some from a poet named Liliana Ponce. It’s very slow-going, though, between the work itself and balancing it with my actual job. Ultimately I’d like to work towards that avant-minded anthology of the southern cone, but I feel it may be a ways off. I’d also thought about something organized around the Tsé-Tsé magazine itself, since that operated as such a pivot for so many poets down there. But again, it’ll take some time to see where the project is really going–though, especially now, these poets who lived through and fought against fascism thirty years ago could be such an important model for us. In any case, hope this message finds you well, and again, apologies for my long silence. I did see, in the interim, your Dispatches project, which is a wonderful source.