One of the Things I Hate
I just had an email exchange with a poet whom I've never met in person but with whom I've been exchanging emails for quite a while now (OK, it's David Dodd Lee), which gets me to thinking AGAIN about the fate of poets in America.
One of the many things I hate about the fate of poets in America is that we now have these mid-level jobs in far away places. Every little college has a poet (or maybe even TWO!).
It's a good system in that it allows more poets to pursue poetry (without the academic havens for poets, there would be drastically fewer poets [which some might say is a good thing, but not me, I like the idea of an army of poets . . . it increases the variability]), but it also forces us away from each other.
I feel as if we've somehow been divided and conquered. I like having a job. And a fulfilling job, mostly. So this is not a physical complaint. But I don’t get the opportunity to sit at the tables of poets and have those “tables with poets” conversations that my fantasy tells me happens in places like New York and Chicago . . .
Do those conversations happen? Are there “poetry communities” somewhere?
I imagine they exist in many graduate writing programs. I felt a little of that when I was a student in a couple graduate writing programs. Some fights. Some agreements that felt like a revolution. But what happens after one graduates, and then, if that person decides to go into teaching, one slogs as an adjunct for a few years, and then gets a job in Where Is That Again, Nebraska? Or Wheresis, MN . . . or MO?
It seems to me that for an artist to develop, that artist must be challenged (and supported) not just by a living wage (which is primary, don’t get me wrong), but by real conversation. A searching conversation across the table from another poet (or poets). A real live conversation.
Please tell me those happen somewhere. Where they trot out the books they’re reading:
JOHN: I’ve just gotten through Richard Meier’s Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar, and I loved it.
OTHER POET: I haven’t seen it. What’s it like?
JOHN: He writes with an amazing mix of the readily available imagination, and a clear eye and focus. It has all the energy of the most antic poets, but with a persuasive vision of the realness of what he’s talking about.
And then what? The other poet reads a Meier poem and agrees perhaps? Or disagrees? Or says “huh?”
When the artist is forced to be an isolato (which is the fate of all artists, I know I know, but we don't have to FORCE the issue, you know?), there’s a futility that can so easily seep into the poet’s vision. I suppose all artistic visions can be said to be futile anyway, but without care and feeding, the poor little plant of the artist might get all withered up, and the poet might find him/herself several years later, tenured and staring out at the youth of tomorrow having forgotten why. And bitter, but without a direction to point the bitterness. Remembering, when passing the bookshelf one day, that s/he once liked that book by that poet Meier.
Is this why so many poets have blogs? Why do so many poets have blogs?