Friday, May 05, 2006

Among the Sheep Flock

Poetry without Context.

I spent some time the other day on a well-known poetry forum. I was struck by how representative the mentality exhibited there is of the damage academia has done to literature. The posters' conception of poetry is that of an art kept in an airless jar, floating in outer space, divorced from the hectic life of the world below.

The poets involved don't seem to believe that poetry should involve the public. The question of how to restore poetry's place in the public sphere has never been asked. They are instead automatons trained to churn out a very dry and stale conception of "poetry," utterly lifeless, which should seldom be read by actual people and never voiced aloud.

Their one goal appears to be "fair contests"-- whatever those are; as if such a thing in the literary world as it is, drowning in conformity, is really possible. (My hero in this regard is Jack Saunders, whose work once received a score of 0 on a scale of 1 to 10 from some kind of arts commission. I thought, "There's a writer thinking outside the box. Let's sign him up!")

The goal of the "poets" is merely to gain some kind of minimal establishment acceptance; winning a token contest, with publication in a literary journal which no one-- NO ONE-- outside the cirlce of contest entrants ever reads. You see, having their poetry READ, having it influence people-- much less the world at large-- isn't a thought. Only official approval from someone somewhere signifying that all the time and expense of their MFA degrees was worth it.

These kind of facsimiles of poets enable the entire corrupt pyramid at the top of which sit the arts dynasts we encountered inside Miller Hall.

Anyway, I have renewed faith in ULAers themselves, after encountering what else is out there. We have, in our modest collection of talent, individuals who believe art should be pushed out to the world-- that literature is important, not in an abstract sense, but important enough to engage the public; that there should be shouting words of poetry on every street corner. What else can save this soulless society from its madness?

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