Dear Dispatches:

A well-known poet of my acquaintance made the astounding remark that, as a poet, he had no interest in reading Proust, because Proust was a novelist & he had no interest reading his work, being a poet…

In GQ’s video portraits I appreciated hearing  Robert Kelly describe “poetry” in much larger terms than what it now passes for. The idea that poetry is a broad field encompassing all types of writing is actually anathema to the powers that be (which I guess are the forces of marketing, i.e. “branding”). It’s a strange irony of the digital age that there’s an appropriate box for anything w/i a system of 1 / 0 coordinates. For arts organizations dedicated to poetry, the differences verse/prose, poetry/fiction are settled issues, foundations set in stone. You become a poet by conforming to a set of rules, the way you write a sonnet by conforming to a set of rules.

To pick up on Agamben in his essay “The End of the Poem” (w/ a passing word of thanks to Cusimano for his seminar notes), poetry is defined by enjambment, yet by the same token poems invariably end up as/with a line of prose. To pull on that thread and be left w/ the difference fiction/non-fiction, or poem/song, puts poetry organizations under the stress to cohere… of which their “long-spoon” attention to poetry as artefact in the field of visual arts is no doubt symptomatic. To systematically deny that stress makes “poetry organizations” unwitting cultural agents for a society of control. Dylan is a case in point (versus, say, Ashbery): who needs a Poetry Coalition when you have the Nobel Committee on your side?

Yrs,

André––