Sunday, December 12, 2010

What's Wrong and Not Wrong with American Poetry (or something like that)

This post is a bit long this morning.  Apologies. I owe it to the temperature (three degrees, with a bit of wind and a new dusting of snow) and the fact that everyone else in the house slept late.

The Huffington Post has been asking questions of poets and then posting the answers.  You can google over there, if you haven’t already, to see some of them.  There was an earlier set that I also commented on: 

There are several bits in this new set that I found interesting: 

“one way to be successful as a poet in American culture has been to carve out a niche, a particular ‘voice’ or style that is recognizable as a brand name, and to cultivate that niche for decades. . . .  The attitudes and jargon of our consumer culture are perfidious, and poetry is not unaffected; hence, the cultivation of a "voice" as if it were a brand name, the isolation of the poetry-ego viewing others' experiences as material for one's sincere posturing, the round of networking and readings and mutual publications not unlike any social network with business connections.” 

This reminded me immediately of the brochure I just received the other day advertizing the 2011 AWP conference in Washington DC, particularly these parts: First, “Browse through AWP’s Bookfair, featuring more than 500 literary presses, journals, editors, and publishers.”  This intimates that the AWP Bookfair is an opportunity for writers to meet and perhaps to make deals with “editors” and “publishers.”  This is, at the very least misleading, but it gets worse: “Network with your peers at dozens of parties, dances, off-site events, and literary receptions.”  OK, maybe AWP has always had a bit of a “networking” creepy factor, but that’s not all it has going for it.  I think of it less as a networking opportunity and more of a family reunion.  Maybe they’re the same thing?  Oh well.  The brochure, at any rate, filled me with a kind of “Gnostic horror” (a phrase a friend used in an email to me recently that seems an appropriate reaction to many different situations in aesthetics and the life around literature). 

But the larger point from the first quote from the HP thing, is this first one: “one way to be successful as a poet in American culture has been to carve out a niche, a particular ‘voice’ or style that is recognizable as a brand name, and to cultivate that niche for decades.”  This really surprised me, using the highly negative connotations around brand name and branding for what is in essence one’s way of writing.  What is it in William Carlos Williams or Elizabeth Bishop or Wallace Stevens, for instance, that makes their poetry their poetry?  If one didn’t have some sort of recognizable through line in one’s poetry, then what is there to make a poet’s poetry the poetry of that poet?  The best way I’ve heard this phrased is by Elisa Gabbert in an essay that will be coming out early next year in The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays in to Contemporary Poetry that I co-edited with Mary Biddinger: “If each of a poet’s poems were unlike the others in every way, there would be no reason to prefer some poets to others; one could only have favorite poems, not favorite poets.” 

Maybe there is too much talk of “voice” and such in MFA programs these days?  Maybe that’s what the poet is reacting to?  The crass side of writing like yourself? 

On the other hand, this brings up another issue that has been tapping at my shoulder recently: Is it necessary for a poet to change one’s way of doing things over time?  Are the examples of John Ashbery and Rae Armantrout (and others: Dean Young, Mary Ruefle, Kay Ryan, etc etc), who haven’t changed their ways of doing things much at all over the years, examples of continued investigation or examples of poets who have failed to “develop”?  I suppose such a conversation would need to proceed on a poet by poet basis, but you see my point.  Is change (“development”: which always bothered me as a phrase pertaining to artists as it intimates that there’s some place to develop towards, and such things give me pause [more on that below]) to be sought? 

Sure, why not?  “Variety is the spice of life,” and all that, but must it be sought?  Stevens said so, famously.  Anyway, I continue to bat that one around without one side scoring much of an advantage, unless it’s to say, simply: Just write things.  Let others decide if you’ve changed or developed or whatnot.  (Yes, I just wrote “whatnot.”)  The job of the artist is to be inquisitive and to make art.  At other times I think that’s too easy a philosophy, that the more we understand ourselves, the better we can understand what we’re doing.  And understanding what one is doing is a good thing for an artist.  So there I am.

Another bit that interested me from another poet in the HP piece, pretty much on this same topic, is this better idea of what one can mean by voice: “One challenge for contemporary poets would be to discover a new kind of voice that could encompass or easily move between both the private and the public sphere, the individual and the group mind. I'm not sure exactly how it could be done. Whitman is one example, but I'm thinking of something less transcendent.”  I second that.  Yes, please.  I want to find that poetry.  It doesn’t matter who writes it (in my better moments this is how I think), but that it gets into the world.  Examples of poets who might be in line for such a voice?

And then comes this, from yet another poet: “I'll risk restating the obvious by venturing that there's only one useful piece of advice for any young writer: write. Pay no attention to the state of American poetry, the death of the book, the legacy of Modernism, the bedbugs in your cheap apartment: ignore as much as you possibly can get away with and write. Resist the careerist temptations of PoBiz. Stay home and write a poem. There is no particular place to get to in Poetry Land, anyway. The point of the journey is the journey itself, the process of writing poetry, which hopefully you consider enriching and indispensable.” 

This is the bit that a friend of mine emailed to me yesterday asking my reaction.  Well, on the one hand, my reaction is, sure, I agree.  There are a few quibbles I might have with it: first, well, it’s important to pay attention closely to the world around you (the apartment, etc) as that will help you write about the world, but I don’t think the poet meant it that way.  It was meant more in the way of not letting the things themselves keep you from writing about them.  Same with this think called “PoBiz,” which, as I get older (I turn 46 in three weeks!), I’m finding harder to find.  Sure, AWP is PoBiz, as we’re all supposed to go there and “network” (THAT’S STILL IRRITATING ME) but other than that, what is it?  Who gets awards and such?  Trying to get some awards as well?  Good luck with that.  But my second quibble is the way the poet conflates by proximity the last two sentences: “There is no particular place to get to in Poetry Land, anyway. The point of the journey is the journey itself, the process of writing poetry, which hopefully you consider enriching and indispensable.”  Yes, of course.  Artists make art.  (Which is what I was just agreeing with above.)  But, you know, that’s much easier to say when you’re Campbell McGrath, and you have a strong press and many friends to do the PoBiz thing for you, than if you’re Young Poet X, just starting out, looking for ways to publish.  This is not meant as a slam against McGrath (OK, I’ve outed him as the author of this last quote, but you’ll have to go to HP to find the first two.), what he says IS true, it’s just that art must be marketed.  Now I’m sounding crass.  Time to check out. 

Because all art is self-portrait.

Finally, I really liked Wayne Miller’s answer (disclaimer: he’s a close friend of mine) quite a bit. So here it is, in full. The question posed by HP was something along the lines of “Have poets betrayed the poetry of Modernism?”  And “What bothers you and what makes you happy in contemporary American poetry?”  Or something like that.  I’ll let him take us home: 

At any point in poetic history, one finds hand-wringing about the state of the art. These days, Tony Hoagland is concerned by the “skittery poem of our moment,” Ron Silliman complains about the pervasiveness of the “School of Quietude,” anzFray ightWray [JG: Sorry for inserting the Pig Latin there, but if I ever mention this person on my blog he gets a notice through google alerts and then comes and says mean things about me in the comment stream] worries about the chatty sociability—the lack of focused quietness—found in the “MFA generations,” Dorothea Lasky is bothered by too many poets writing “projects,” John Barr complains about the lack of safari-going among today's poets, Ange Mlinko decries the legacy of Lowell’s “tyranny of psychological verismo,” Michael Theune frets that “middle-ground poets” don't have clear evaluative criteria, Anis Shivani worries about the “mechanical” nature of our poetry, and numerous poets have asserted in response to Ashbery that “the emperor has no clothes.”

I say “these days” because we could also be in some other historical moment when, say, William Carlos Williams is complaining about T. S. Eliot’s “conforming to the excellencies of classroom English,” or M. L. Rosenthal is bothered by the “shameful” nature of Confessional poetry, or France is scandalized by Baudelaire's “incomprehensible” and “putrid” work, or Ezra Pound is attacking the influence of Walt Whitman, whose Leaves of Grass “is impossible to read [. . .] without swearing at the author almost continuously,” or the Acmeist poets are decrying the lack of craft in the work of the Russian Symbolists, or Dunstan Thompson is complaining of “the smugness, the sterility, the death-in-life which disgrace the literary journals of America” in that poetic nadir of 1940—the same year Auden published Another Time, E. E. Cummings published 50 Poems, Kenneth Fearing published his Collected Poems, and Kenneth Rexroth and Robert Hayden made their literary debuts.

The legacy of Modernism is alive and well—though, frankly, it's so broad as to be pretty much unbetrayable. After all, the Language poets and Philip Levine both envision their work as building on William Carlos Williams. Robert Bly thought “Deep Image” poetry was a return to true Imagism, yet Ron Silliman lumps Bly and James Wright with many of the “academic” and Confessional poets Bly excoriated in The Fifties.

All poetry lives somewhere on a spectrum between Classicism and Romanticism. If high Modernists such as Eliot, Pound, and Moore tilt toward the Classical side, and the Confessional and Beat poets inhabit the Romantic, then we've more or less marked the boundaries of the Modernist legacy. But that gives us quite an aesthetic and intellectual range to play around in.

Many American poets frustrated by 1980s post-Confessionalism—which leaned largely on personal narrative and ad misericordium for its effects—have turned back to the high Modernists, Objectivists, and New York School to balance out a poetic that was, in the end, too baldly Romantic. Sometimes this turn has produced new work that's mechanical, emotionally flat, or unparsable—but that doesn't negate the fact that this rebalancing is mostly a good move, one that's hardly a betrayal of Modernism. Indeed, it's a backward turn similar to Eliot's when he exalted the Metaphysical poets over the Victorians and Romantics.

There are a number of things that worry me about poetry today:

• Ignorance of poetic—and literary—history. I was once on a panel with a well-published poet who said she had little use for the Modernists because her work was about collage. It's just this sort of foreshortened view that leaves poets thinking either (a.) that all poetry must be built around reportage of personal epiphany, or (b.) that Dadaism is new.

• I worry when I hear writers say they're not interested in reading—or writing—“great poems.” I still subscribe to the quaint idea that poets write in the hope of producing a few great works—works that, assuming society doesn't collapse in one of its many possible conflagrations, people will continue to read a hundred years from now because those works will continue to be valuable. Call me an optimist.

• I fear that America's most visible and influential critical apparatuses have yet to notice how much American poetry has decentralized. Our next important poet could just as easily be living in Cleveland, Houston, Chico, Tucson, or Lincoln as (s)he could in New York or Boston. How long will it take the New York Times Book Review to pay attention?

• Childishness. I understand that poems written in the whiny idiom of a 15-year-old about Barbies and action figures and teenagery romance are, at their best, intended to approach seriousness through the back door. But, come on: we're adults. We don't need to apologize for having adult concerns. And if we haven't stumbled upon them by the time we're in our mid to late twenties, we should go looking for them. Call me stodgy.


At 12/12/2010 8:04 AM, Blogger Justin Evans said...

I wouldn't let the AWP brochure thing bother you. It's obviously aimed at people like me who have to make the decision of whether or not we are in fact going to spend our own money to attend. However, with tightening budgets at universities, it may be added pressure being passed on to the attendees so they may prioritize their budgets to maintain departmental visits.

I think they want to promote nostalgia in a way which is not creating the furor of self-promotion, but ratrher, taking advantage of the hype which already exists.

* * *

I think poets need to keep an eye on the business of poetry (po-biz) because the reality is the 'biz' has trends and a track record which can be documented. We also need to ignore trends which fall into the category of fad or mode inasmuch (yes, I wrote inasmuch) as it pertains to the actual writing we do as poets.

I like talking about the trend of chapbooks. In the past five years there has been a big resurgence and proliferation in chapbooks (po-biz) but the writing and presentation in those chapboooks is delightfully varied. Of course writing follows a trend-like progression, touching on what other writing we as poets read and admire, but those common touches are not the unflavoring of writing, but rather a necessary exploration and questioning as each poet develops that thing called 'voice.'

At 12/12/2010 9:48 AM, Blogger Jeannine said...

Ha! Your comment about "don't worry abut the poetry business" advice to young poets - once a poet has already "made it" reminds me of what would happen if Bill Gates told his army of low-level testers and tech writers to enjoy the journey that is Microsoft, but not to worry about the money. Easy to say from the top.

At 12/12/2010 9:58 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


Well, other than the fact that it was needles in my eyes, it wasn't all that bad. The recovery time was quick, and involved Mario Cart!


But you know, from the top, it DOES feel like the right answer . . . and it IS the right answer, from that perspective. But that's mostly marketing. The larger point has a lot of truth in it, the writing itself, that, while writing, if one's worried about reception, then too many voices are talking. Or something like that? That's the distinction, right?

At 12/12/2010 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it that many musicians seem to be able to aspire to have a "voice" of their own and be OK with that concept, but many poets get antsy about it? A musician creates a particular sound, an approach, a groove, a beat, an aesthetic, what have you. In music, unless you're a preservationist, personal stamp is a good thing, regardless of whether that stamp changes considerably with each new effort. Being innovative, new, and fresh doesn't have to also mean being indistinguishable as an author, no? Innovation and change is not necessarily synonymous with "voice," though it may be during the process of finding it. Also, I think "brand" is probably not the best word for it, maybe identity or image...

But, why is brand necessarily a bad thing? The Beatles had and obviously still have probably the biggest brand in popular music and yet they changed, developed with every album. Still, they had some striking and defining characteristics, so when something is "Beatlesque" you hear it loud and clear. If you like their music, putting a brand on the sound, style and image doesn't really denigrate the Beatles, it just organizes their marketing. Why does that seem anathema for some in literature?

Obviously writing and reading the same book or poem or song or album over and over again gets boring for most. Then it's not the poem, it's the poet. Get some new obsessions. But, is the "essence" of "quality" poetry for an individual poet the constant trying on of new suits for size while burning the old threads? Some might be better off sticking to what they do well and accentuating that. Do you have to be a chameleon to write good or great poems?


At 12/12/2010 10:33 AM, Anonymous Julio de Luna said...

Down-bearded youth of the moon,
who are you? Oh keep building
your miniature catapults
of thimbles and rubber bands,
though your poems are dead
flies on a summer sill and eve.
Whatever is most iridescent
about them is what is
most sad, most useless,
butterflied to a black body.
Oh but go ahead, keep building
your little catapults
in your moon-strewn room,
launching yourself at a face
in pane this still summer eve.

- de Luna

At 12/12/2010 10:56 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I agree. I think "brand" is the cynical version of what you're talking about. What makes Coltrane and Sonny Rollins so easy to pick out . . . and yes, I think that's the anxiety, that "voice" becomes "brand" which then becomes self-parody, perhaps?

But, as you say, it doesn't need to be that way.

As de Luna says, as we all say:

"Whatever is most iridescent
about them is what is
most sad, most useless"


At 12/12/2010 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is a voice that is private and public? One that talks about the self and the general population? One that talks about oneself distantly? One that talks about the distance privately? Celan?

Is it already what poets do? Or most poets? For instance:

Some Other City We Could Travel To
by John Gallaher

This is a covered wagon. This,
a pigeon.

Mother is worried.

When we made it to the next century
we decided to let it
blow our hair around

a bit.

So we’re walking forward all that way,
dusty and November.

A spectacular dust

whichever way you look. A day
of black and purple clouds. Smoke clouds.

Mother is worried. Gold grass.
Gold trees.

Each sequence you fold into
is bordered by “and then.”

From this moment on
I’ve decided to call it dancing.

I’m chasing a balloon across a field.

I am lucky and happiness,
back and forth.

I could love everyone right now.

At 12/12/2010 12:07 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I get uncomfortable when I'm the example. Could you do that again with someone else's poetry?

But, in general, I think you have a point. But that's just the sort of vagueness I like when it comes to writing poetry. It leaves a lot of room for writers to explore the question. Now if we were going to be all teacher-like, I'd say we need to work on our specificity.

At 12/13/2010 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“One challenge for contemporary poets would be to discover a new kind of voice that could encompass or easily move between both the private and the public sphere, the individual and the group mind. I'm not sure exactly how it could be done. Whitman is one example, but I'm thinking of something less transcendent.”

How do you do that unless you're transcendent? I'm really kind of tired of people wanting to write like Whitman, but not understanding, not believing, that Whitman didn't write about these things to sound "cool," didn't write about spheres and circles 'cause it was "psychedelic." He had a religious belief. He believed that every atom belonging to him as good belongs to me. I believe that too.

At 12/14/2010 8:13 AM, Blogger Johannes said...

I wrote a response to this on I liked Wayne's article too, but I take issue with the "fear" of the childish, a fear that fits so perfectly into the other heap of fears he does such a good job of bringing up.


At 12/14/2010 8:21 AM, Anonymous Ana B said...

I like this idea of a new poetry that bleeds between private and public, once again and truly. I think such a voice could bleed between pop/child-like/"immature"/vulgar and socially conscious/ancient as well. It kind of has to. All I can say is I'm working very hard to develop this poetry, John. I have some new poems coming up in EOAGH that aspire to this sort of thing. We'll see.

At 12/14/2010 8:23 AM, Anonymous Ana B said...

PS I love that poem by John above! and thanks again Julio for apparating!

At 12/14/2010 8:23 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I've looked around on and can't find it, though I did find a nice post on MFA students by Joyelle that I think needs to be repeated.

At 12/14/2010 8:28 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I'm with you. I'm attracted to art that does some sort of "transfer" between things (modes, voices, diction, etc). It's too easy to simply call it hybrid . . . too many things are going on in different ways with different writers, but yes, this is a very interesting and potentially profitable direction to aim poetry (and yes, with a lot of historical precedent - I'm thinking of Eliot doing the police in different voices).

At 12/14/2010 8:59 AM, Anonymous Julio de Luna said...

I wear a locket under my shirt,
a little coin of milk!
It has a little latch,
it opens and...
her face has faded.
It is not hers.
It is not her.
It is not.
It is.
I close it.
What a cold coin it is,
spinning so slowly on my heart!

- de Luna

At 12/14/2010 10:45 AM, Blogger Johannes said...

It's at the end of the post about The Cure. It's kind of a wide-ranging post...


At 12/14/2010 11:05 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Does "the whiny idiom of a 15-year-old about Barbies and action figures and teenagery romance" = the gurlesque?

I guess I'd have to ask Wayne if that's what he's bothered by . . . Or, conversely, is every poem written in "the whiny idiom of a 15-year-old about Barbies and action figures and teenagery romance" necessarily a gurlesque poem?

That's a more interesting, and perhaps troubling, question to me. It might not be troubling, though. I'd have to see examples. In the abstract, his comment doesn't have to be a reaction to the gurlseque, though it's obvious that it could be.

At 12/15/2010 8:01 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

America's "most visible and influential critical apparatuses" *have* to lag five to ten years behind developments -- there's too much risk in coming out swinging for something new.

At 12/15/2010 8:10 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I wouldn't have phrased it as Wayne did, but, thinking about it just now, I would think that as America's "most visible and influential critical apparatuses" are, well, agressive in other ways, and that as they are in competition, they would be more on the case?

The way Burt is/was trying, and Hoagland is/was trying to find their (very different) ways to find "the new thing", there is an open field out there. But it's not really my conversation, as I spend very little time looking at America's "most visible and influential critical apparatuses", as I suspect most other poets have?

At 12/15/2010 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Johannes & John,

I’ll chime in here. I wasn’t thinking about the gurlesque when I wrote that. I was just thinking about a particular kind of poem I see in lit mags sometimes that tips into a semi-ironized (but not wholly ironized) nostalgia for early adolescence--often enacted through a fetishizing of childhood kitsch--and nods a bit toward 60s pop art.

That kind of poem just doesn't interest me all that much, whether it’s a subset of the “gurlesque” or not. (And I’ve seen it written by both men and women, if that matters.) I don’t FEAR such a poem--I just think it’s kind of lame. In the same way that many of those literary memoirs about relatively minor journeys, betrayals and indiscretions are, to my way of thinking, a kind of Oprah for the intellectual class, this kind of poem seems to provide more or less the equivalent of Harry Potter or Twilight for the poetry reader.

But then again, lots of adults--grown adults!--love to read Harry Potter, so perhaps such poems are merely commenting (perhaps even critically--it’s hard for me to tell) on this embarrassing cultural trend.

Which is to say that my real concern is less with the poetry itself than with what the appeal of this kind of poem says about American culture. A lot of my students--college students!--would rather read Harry Potter than Woolf or Céline or Stevens. And those same students LOVE the kind of poem I’m talking about. They bring it to class and say, “Hey, you guys--this poem is awe-some! It has G.I. Joe (or My Little Pony, or Aquaman, or KISS) in it!”--as if that alone is enough to make it good. Perhaps it is for some readers.

And maybe that’s okay. The last section of that little essay is where I air a few of my own poetry frustrations with the understanding that such grousing is no indication of the health of contemporary poetry--in other words, a place where I acknowledge that I’m guilty of whining, too.


At 12/15/2010 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm here leaving a comment and more comments show up as I'm doing it!

Hi Jordan--yeah, maybe my aim's too narrow there. I think the bigger issue is that there aren't enough consistent and visible poetry reviewing venues to handle effectively the diffusion of today's poetry world.

What I meant to imply was that this is a problem of riches--there's so much poetry now that deserves more attention!--not that poetry is dying (or at least really ill), which seemed to be the general implication of Anis' questions.


At 12/15/2010 9:54 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>America's "most visible and influential critical apparatuses" *have* to lag five to ten years behind developments -- there's too much risk in coming out swinging for something new.<

Hm. Sounds reasonable enough. But I wonder why it's so different in the Art world, where criticism and art production seem to be in much more of a dynamic feedback-loop mode, the most visible and influential critical apparatuses included. Not sure such delay between production and critical reception is necessarily such a natural cultural relation, as Jordan seems to imply. Must be some other stuff at work at work influencing a relative "caution" in poetic field...

Of course, it could be something as simple as money.

At 12/15/2010 10:06 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Of course. There's money in the art world, and new art is an engine for money, so the criticism is fundamentally interested in finding the new art (that is usually a departure from previous art - as the "fashion" has to change) and pushing it into the revenue stream. In the world of poetry, as there's pretty much zero money, the equation is quite different. Publishing and awards are given to poets and critics to decide, and they decide along friendship ties and prior modes of doing things. But everyone knows this already.

At 12/15/2010 10:14 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Easy example that we all know already: Pop Art would not have happened if the Abstract Expressionists had been in charge of what gets shown at galleries.

Art history is full of the sorts of attempts at influence that the literary world, especially poetry, is constructed around, with very few exceptions.

At 12/15/2010 10:33 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

In that regard, John, one would expect the velocity of contemporary "canonization" dymamics in poetry to speed up: that as American poetry (particularly the avant kind, which tends to be livelier on the critical side of things) becomes more professionalized and career-tethered it's critical apparatuses would quicken their pace of faciliting axiological atmospheres and hierarchies (these plural, as it's not like there's a single set) upon which a professional habitus so much depends. Like a wheelbarrow, with a motor. A quickening pace as a structural function of the Field, that is, not as something self-consciously enacted by "critics."

And that's indeed what is happening and it's speeding up, I'd say it's clear. Not at the same RPMs as in the art world, of course. But there are dimensions of "money." Call it Capital, as we all like to. But as you say, everyone knows this already. Even if it's impolite to talk about it at the AWP.

At 12/15/2010 10:38 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Speaking of which, I guess, what happened to those poetry bumper stickers? They've all been taken down!

At 12/15/2010 10:48 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

What remains seems almost like a taunt!


At 12/15/2010 10:58 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

But it occurs to me, also, in relation to Jordan's comment:

If it takes so long, anyway, why should poet-critics rush to threaten legal action?

At 12/15/2010 12:05 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


When you talk like this:

"as American poetry (particularly the avant kind, which tends to be livelier on the critical side of things) becomes more professionalized and career-tethered it's critical apparatuses would quicken their pace of faciliting axiological atmospheres and hierarchies (these plural, as it's not like there's a single set) upon which a professional habitus so much depends."

I tend to check out. When we're speaking in large abstractions I can follow and agree in part, but when you get like this, still abstract, but narrower, I start wanting specific names and examples. Truth is, I think I'm part of that crew, looking at this description. It's kind of nice to be part of a crew, but I certainly don't feel like I'm getting any capital out of it.

Yikes, even.

At 12/15/2010 12:23 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...


I think we're just about ALL part of the "crew" now. The S.S. Institution has sailors and officers and stevedores. Accountants. Suppliers. Truck drivers. Bloggers. Community college teachers. Gardeners at the Summer Retreats. Attorneys.

It takes a village!

And the Capital we don't feel we are getting is the Capital that makes us say we don't feel we are getting any. Or so I'd proffer in my admittedly old-fashioned ways.

As for providing individual examples to support what I'm saying about the critical RPM's turning faster to fuel the aircraft carrier: I don't have to, as nothing could be more evident. And individuals are not the point, in any case!

At 12/15/2010 1:13 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Maybe you should, ahem, propose a panel on it for AWP!

At 12/15/2010 1:41 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

John, I've agreed to be on, I think, four, maybe five panels for AWP over the past years.

And they've all been turned down!

At 12/15/2010 1:45 PM, Anonymous Austin Smith said...

Kent, would you like to be on a "Poets of Freeport, Illinois" panel with me? How can they turn that one down?

At 12/15/2010 1:46 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

In fact, one of the ones that was turned down by the selection committee was a panel on Araki Yasusada, proposed in the same year as AWP Writer's Chronicle published a four-page article on... Araki Yasusada!

So you can see why I give up.

At 12/15/2010 1:48 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...


How about "Silence in the Snowy Fields: The Lonely Poets of Freeport, Illinois"?

At 12/15/2010 1:53 PM, Anonymous Austin Smith said...

I like it, Kent. Or how about you, Brooks, me and my Dad on a panel called: "Be Gentle With This Heirloom: Parallel Poetry Patriarchies In Freeport, Illinois"

At 12/15/2010 1:58 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

And another one was a panel on Roberto Bolano's obsession with Poets as fictional characters. And one of the panelists was Laura Healy, the translator of the New Directions book of Bolano's poetry. I was supposed to speak on Bolano's scandalous modeling, in Distant Star, of Ruiz-Tagle (the fascist sky-writing poet) after the great Raul Zurita. And I'd just come back from Chile where I'd spent time talking to Zurita about it! Imagine, this was right when Savage Detectives was all the rage. And they turned the panel down!

I'm telling you, I think Jordan Davis is working behind the scenes with those people!

At 12/15/2010 2:16 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

I'm in, Austin. And if they turn it down, we could always go ahead and hold it at the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Site, next to Union Dairy Ice Cream. Think of the crowd we'd get.

At 12/15/2010 2:28 PM, Anonymous Austin Smith said...

Yes! It will be like a Lincoln-themed AWP with ice cream!

At 12/16/2010 6:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paranoia is treatable.

At 12/16/2010 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you saying American poetry has an arm coming out the side of its head? Hmm?


At 12/16/2010 9:00 AM, Blogger Johannes said...


I've expounded a bit more on this on Montevidayo.I'm really more interested in the rhetoric of the dismissal in my post than if this dismissal refers to a specific poet or set of poets.


At 12/16/2010 9:13 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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