Arguing with poets
“‘Oh to be seventeen years old/Again,’ sang the red-haired man, ‘and not know that poetry/Is ruled with the sceptre of the dumb, the deaf, and the creepy.’” Kenneth Koch

A little bitter, there Ken? He is more right about the business of publishing and about the academy, than he is about the poet’s art.

 

To sell, poetry has to appeal to popular taste: it has to dumb itself down. This is the effect of the business of publishing, and it is not much of the threat to poetry. The poets will just go on writing and go on being poor. The occasional popular poet might sell some books, but that is  a very rare thing.

 

The bigger threat is from the academy, where  professors of literature and creative writing too often think they own poetry and attempt to legislate who should be read or published, often according to a “theoretical perspective” that they acquired back in their grad school days. Their tendency is to burn the candle at both ends by rejecting anyone who wrote too long ago (50 years? 25 years? The time frame varies) and by warping new writers to fit withintheir procrustean “theoretical perspective”.

 

The publishing business is a threat to poets’ integrity. The academy is a threat to poetry itself.

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