"three little fireworks"
Poetry is a sphere of lit in bad need of drastic change.
Last Monday I read at a poetry series at the main library here in Philly. The audience looked surprised when I raised my voice.
The big poetry journal produced in Philadelphia is American Poetry Review, a good illustration of why establishment poetry in this country is near death. Unplug its life support from wealthy people and it'd immediately vanish.
As it is, the patient (poetry) lies comatose on the hospital bed, green line on a nearby monitor flat. But wait-- there's a ripple on the line. Not a ripple really, but a vibration. An innuendo of a rumor of a ripple of breathing life.
"Hospital: It was Euphoria" by Jean Valentine, constant award winner.
"It was euphoria
little veins of it sent
burst to the brain
three little fireworks
white on the gray MRI
it was euphoria
when you stove my boat
& brought me over
listing in the racing foam- -"
That's it, folks. An entire Jean Valentine masterwork. Earned her piles of money from rich people. THAT'll get hordes of Americans interested in poetry alright. That'll save the art form.
I look through poem after poem in this prestigious Philadelphia poetry journal and can find hardly a whisper of a ripple of life. The green line remains static as I turn the pages. The machine next to the bed begins to beep.
Names? Oh, the rag contains names, without question: Alicia Ostriker; John Updike; Reginald Shepherd; John Yau; Elaine Sexton; Robert Pinsky; Ira Sadoff. What it doesn't contain is any sense, modulated murmur or whisper of excitement.
This kind of irrelevant APR CRAP in fact about shoes yogurt cups incense sticks ketchup bottles tiny leaves old rugs is exactly what chases hordes of college students every year away from poetry. Fire hazard as they crowd the exit door in the classroom; people trampled as mobs flee from the uselessness of the establishment Word.
The machine in the poetry hospital is shouting electronically frantically while the caretakers don't seem to hear as the body on the table begins to turn blue.
Here's an excerpt from APR poet Glenna Luschei's bio: "She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a D.H. Lawrence Fellowship in New Mexico, an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from St. Andrew's Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina, and a Master of Life Award from her alma mater, the University of Nebraska. She was named Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo City and County for the year 2000." Etc. (Her bio is beyond satire.)
"Master of Life"! One might think Glenna's poem, "Waterlillies," should then provide awe, catharsis, or excitement. It doesn't. The poems in this issue range from average to bland to idiotic to insipid to-- in Robert Pinsky's case-- embarrassing.
It turns out Ms. Luschei is a major donor to APR-- one of the nurses or doctors ignoring the condition of the patient. She might be one of those mad health care providers you read about in the newspaper who use the guise of their profession to kill people.
The patient on the table has died. It's turned gray. Poetry was its name. Someone call the morgue and notify the family.