Salon has an article on poetry!
Salon has an article on poetry!
But, alas, it’s this one:
Controversy is always a hit, even when it’s about an art form no one notices outside the family. It leaves me to wonder what life might be like if poetry were talked about in the way that novels even were talked about. But I guess we have to take what we can get? But, really, does it need to be this?
That was pretty much it. It has all the flash of a High School lunch protest in the school library.
In the Salon article, this to-do at The Poetry Foundation is lightly being compared to the Occupy movement. Maybe it’s similar? Certainly the aims are just as elusive and the methods kind of, or almost, funny, in a youthful, futile kind of way. What else is there to say? The Poetry Foundation is doing with its money what it wants to do with its money. That seems a very different situation from the Occupy movement, where the claim is that Wall Street (or wherever) is doing things with our money (I think?). I do really like the idea of someone forming a percentage sheet about poetry. Who would be the 99%? Who would be the 1%?
Here’s the larger question the article gets to:
Odd as the CPC’s agenda may be, it does reflect a common (and romantic) notion that wealth is at odds with artistic authenticity. Nor is it new to fume that poets in particular grow dull amid the trappings of capitalism. In a recent Vanity Fair article on the photographer Milton Gendel, James Reginato tells the following anecdote. Sometime in the 1940s, two American editors at the French Surrealist magazine VVV gave their boss, André Breton, engraved Christmas cards. Breton had them fired immediately. “These snakes at my bosom!” he screamed. “I have fought the middle-class bourgeoisie all my life. And now they bring me Christmas cards!”
Moreover, shenanigans have always had a place in the art world, and they can sometimes needle us into taking a fresh look at things. Sure, one can find plenty to admire in issues of Poetry and in the programs of the Poetry Foundation (in full disclosure, I’ve written articles for them), but one may well ask whether the foundation could do a bit more for the lower classes in Chicago, or whether its wealth now distracts from its mission. It’s also worth considering the CPC’s observation that “the language that [foundation president] John Barr uses in talking about the Poetry Foundation … is eerily reminiscent of the corporate language of marketing and branding.” For them, the fact that Barr used to be an investment banker on Wall Street says it all.
At the same time, these protests reflect an unwitting hypocrisy: The group claims to fight for the common people but in fact has put its own priorities above those of people who attend poetry events. There’s irony in a protest that seeks to defend poetry by disrupting poetry readings. Those who would rather not have their evening “queered” are simply too bourgeois, it seems, to count. In much the same way, one wonders why Ms. Dunn claims to defend art by licking paintings. Between that kind of activism and any form of accountability one finds a buffer of obtuse pseudo-theory, a convenient layer of cerebral anarchy.
I'm with Forrest Gander on this one. Aw, just let ’em go.