The State of Poetry … in 1993

10 thoughts on “The State of Poetry … in 1993”

  1. I need to bookmark to come back and finds himself reading this later – but oh my goodness I love the point about the success of those who know how to market these days – that is for all lit genres and not just poets – anyhow – looking forward to coming back –

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  2. I agree, there is enough in the essay to bookmark and reflect upon.

    My first reaction, though, is that Miller’s preface and Kramer’s essay both envelop themselves with the same insulating blanket as their indictment, in observing

    “… that poetry hasn’t always had an uneasy relationship with the wider world, it’s clear that in the past poets tried for more, and were respected and even looked to more, than they are today. ”

    While their texts suggest a wider engagement to the world has been sacrificed on the altar of its own changing light, they pretty much restrict the source of remedy to things that might be found within poetry’s practices -its form, its subjects, its rhyme and meter, its interior presentations and even the personal, sentiments and engagement it has with its audiences.

    In truth, as far as the real world is concerned, poetry remains a moment away from…, a comment on…, a footnote or repackaging of…, or a metaphor of someone’s non-poetic experience (including that of the poet). Rarely does it actually climb into the trenches of the non-poetic, wider-world or lend a direct hand at getting the job done (which may encompass the personal as well as the objective).

    One might wonder why poems so seldom, if ever, appear in say, construction trades or nursing professional publications or even pet magazines, or why we are pretty much guaranteed there will be no poets on staff at our major scientific and social projects such as LHC or the Mauna Kea Telescope, Or Amnesty International, or on our boards of directors or influencing our City Councils during public input rather than some ribbon cutting for a downtown food bank? Or, any of the myriad opportunities for those who, if they deserve the name ‘poet’, will be among the best trained to observe what otherwise goes unnoticed and say what otherwise cannot be said.

    Imagine a poetry which doesn’t merely reflect on the horrors of some natural or man-made catastrophe, but arrives on scene, to not only offer momentary relief and entertainment, but to accelerate the psychic repair of the victims and to help expand their visions of a recovery which includes the dreams of the people for their future, dreams of which they are only dimly aware.

    I’d maintain that is the ‘wider world’ from which poetry has kept itself aloof and disconnected almost from its beginnings, even while treating its most important and intimate events as subjects, that represents the greatest gap between itself and the reality of the wider world. The overthrow of a previous genre or road closure of some experimental avenue that time has rendered “too familiar”, are of far less importance, than the separation of poetry from the wider world through its self-inflicted consignment to the stages and books and entertainment divisions of the world.

    There are enormous opportunities for poetry to directly apply itself and its offerings in a myriad of tasks that engage the human project. Not so much an adjustment of costume and marketing practices, as it is one of recognizing the potential value of poetry in markets beyond those in which poets simply perform and applaud one another. There is a ‘wider world’ for poetry. But it may not be pop culture that is driving poetry out of it. It may well be that poetry, in all its guises, has always kept itself too far off the roads more traveled to recognize a natural relationship it has to all those places it has never gone before.

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  3. my pal once, after a few too much drink, asked everyone in the loving room, around 8 or 10 people, what it is that makes Shakespeare more important than a daily soap opera. everyone in the room said it was obvious, but he said, it isn’t enough to persuade someone, it isn’t enough to just say “because it is Shakespeare” without a logical reason, then they can essentially be compared to each other for both are dramas, there is conflict, love, anger, retaliation, revenge etc. what my friend was driving at was the attention that has been placed on Shakespeare over a soap opera, the essays, allusions, scholarly study & translations.
    what i am driving at is that so long as a small corner of the public see value, write, think, engage, blog or whatever about poetry, it has its meaning, it has the core foundation of its why.
    very few, if any people, would seriously sit down & write a critical study of The Twilight Saga, or the latest comic book movie, it is a fleeting instance in a race for the next thing, & though this happens in the poetry world, people do review each other, there are people who commit themselves to numerous areas in the poetry world, it is our desire to see poetry matter by being part of it. i think redslider has some cracking ideas, but cliche is a terrible component to reception of something. that is mighty hurdle to leap. this was a great essay, cheers Tim.

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  4. Great essay Tim! As a professional visual artist there are times when I wonder if “it’s worth it” to be an artist but 99.9 percent of the time it feels very worth it. If only because I am able to talk artistically with both “the educated” people and “the real world”. I’m able to take the raw data of experience and make a beautiful object with that data. Incidentally I deal much better with “the real world” by going through the process of making my artistic efforts – no matter what the results (money, fame) may ultimately be. For me art and poetry are not about some attempt to become the next Shakespeare but an effort to say something about life and the here and now that is metaphorical and/or visually interesting to a viewer. Art and poetry are a way for me to share ideas and connect with someone – without being baldly literal (i.e. just sharing raw data without interpretation) in my communications.

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  5. I agree Robert Lambert Jones III – I think it is up to the poets, just as it is up to professional fine artist’s like me to get the “art” out of the rare-ified gallery and into the regular society. I’ve published in “regular magazines” some of my fine art which is on exhibit in galleries and museums – I submitted my art to the magazines as “illustrations” and dropped the “fine art” descriptions. If I called my art what it is “fine art” the “regular magazines” were not interested as they didn’t think their readers would be. But as an “illustration” they welcomed it and their readers responded well. I think too often the categories by which we define what a creative person creates are too harshly drawn.

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