this morning I woke resolved to forge some progress against the ever-cascading anthill of to-dos– but first, of course, just had to check in with email and facebook… and before I’d even drawn stuttering breath found I’d been suckered deep along meanderings of yet another sparkly novelty– the gorgeously-writ Jennifer Michael Hecht’s The Lion and the Honeycomb (o tip of lurking landmass) on Best American Poetry (thanks once more to Laurel for the pointer).
as the drifts of precise pleasure mixed with vague desire and inkling despair over my own incidentalist scribbly pursuits mounted deeper around my ears, I slammed shut the laptop and jumped up, threw off slouchy garb, and bolted into the hottest possible shower to melt away mental frostbite and all-consumerist lassitude.
hot damn, but folks forge astonishing accomplishments with their lives all around in this … (what’s that thing called that you look through and turn and see the horizon repurposed in fractal…? I’m looking at one right here before me, made of stained glass and flower petals, but the substantive thing itself refuses to yield its name… ah, thanks, chris–) kaleidoscope world.
for what it’s worth, let me lay it out right here: the iowa writers’ workshop put me right off my appetite for poetry. period. kaput.
oh hell, maybe ellipsis. lately I’ve felt myself creeping obliquely back, like a pigeontoed catburgler in snowshoes.
anyway the point is I’m guilty of throwing the baby out the window and gargling the spitty bathwater, spiting only myself.
but all those whiskey-fueled literary-name-dropping debates left me feeling so utterly frigid and alienated that I bolted for the nearest fortification of pulsing humanism, pasted on poetic blinders, and hummed a bedlam la-la-la as I pottered away in any other available direction. that’s how much I hated (and I don’t really like to use the word “hate”) the pomp and bloat of area windbags.
not so long ago the lovely Katrina Roberts reposted a bit on Facebook by Mark Doty which made a case to exorcise the use of “academic” from the critical lexicon of poetry altogether, as “tired” and meaningless– and I, from my glittery red vinyl diner breakfast booth across from chris, flipping through iphonelandia while attending the arrival of miraculous eggy concoctions, started gagging, predictably enough, on my coffee.
lately I’ve felt wracked with regardless apoplexy over topics I suspect I badly comprehend, having ostriched away a decade and more– poetry, labor unions, etcetera– topical issues raging the airwaves and rocking me with intense reaction I feel ill equipped to back up substantively in debate. my reflex against the pro-union bandwagon played out on facebook with my own foot lodged snugly in the offending orifice (my own), though I suspect I still have a, possibly equally misguided, bone or two to pick there. I’m learning, late in the game, that eating crow is personally instructive, at least. I’ve little doubt that airing my sentiments about the State of Poetry in America will land me in a smellier kettle yet, but if that’s not the purpose of the blogging platform, to air and, ideally, exorcise and improve upon our host of ignorances and prejudices… well, I’m guilty of misusing the tool. go ahead. lob your corrections my way.
from all I’ve seen in the course of my admittedly narrow and subjective experience, poetry-in-america and academia are virtually synonymous. unless you take into account slam poetry, which it strikes me the ilk of journal-published poets seldom does. straight-up poesie as practiced in our day and age has evolved, specifically through sponsorship within the halls of academe, into the “comfortable discourse of a mandarin elite” just as Robert Scholes indicated it might. who else but poets and employed academics even reads poems? it’s an honest question. who, without the schooling requisite to engage in the conversation, even thinks or cares to ride its rarefied currents? the more I wrote poems, when I was writing them, the more the approved process seemed to turn in upon itself, inverting ever more until what resulted sealed shut with a hermetic hiss.
for why? I ask you. honestly, I do.
because I miss the making of them– poems. I miss that little, delicate, exacting metalsmithing of syntax and the afterglow glee of the thing wrought– even if no one else could, or wanted to, read it.