19 dic. 2003

A year ago today I wrote:

Thursday, December 19, 2002
Good and bad poetry. There is so much resistance to thinking along those lines! There is no fixed criterion of excellence, we are told. We shouldn’t call bad poetry bad; it might serve some other valuable function, etc... Yet I feel no hesitation about being the scourge of bad poetry. It seems almost an ethical duty. Why can’t I just leave it alone? Why does it make me suffer so? If I knew that I would understand myself much better than I do. In part it is the feeling that appreciation of dreck comes at the cost of appreciation of what I most value. I see this sentiment in Sorrentino’s masterful attack on John Gardner, so I guess I am in good company. I did learn in the New York Times last Sunday, however, that the unexamined life is worth living after all. Tell it to Dick Detective.

Jordan Davis the other day cited my infamous poem on the “Permission Granters,” a category of poets who inspire me precisely because they are not intimidating “great” poets, the type who make you want to give it all up. I had Ron Padgett in mind. I feel, in my heart, that I am roughly as talented as Ron Padgett. That is not an insult to Ron, whose work I hold in the greatest esteem. I just don’t feel intimidated by him. His work gives me permission (persimmon?) to be a poet. That is, in fact, its specific genius. Can anyone be a poet then? Well, that’s the other side of the good/bad argument. “Permission granted, but not to do anything you want,” as John Cage put it. It’s not a license to promote bad poetry. Think of the poem "Poetic License." "This license certifies / that Ron Padgett may tell whatever lies / His heart desires / Until it expires."

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