20 sept. 2006

I can own a book of poetry but I don't own the poetry in the book.


Reading is a palimpsest, a process of writing over what has been previously read. Reading a book over again is like tracing over the same letters on this palimpsest.


There can be no system for recognizing merit in poetry. Poetry arises out of friendship and collaboration, coterie and competition, as well as from "blind submission." It doesn't arise purely out of "meritocratic" institutions, and never will. It may very well be the fact that one's best friends happen to be the best poets around. For example, if one is Kenneth Koch in 1960. Or Ron Silliman in 1980. Poetry arises in clusters, not randomly through meritocratic processes. To say otherwise is to be ignorant of literary history.

On the other hand, we can't have the dog enamoured of its own fleas. Someone needs to have an intervention with Ashbery to make him stop before he writes another blurb for some minor British imitator of Ashbery.

Of course, coterie poetics produces its share of dross too. I just find this dross to be more interesting than, say, the run-of-the-mill college journal of poetry that just selects from the poems sent to it, but without any strong aesthetic agenda to guide the selection. I'd rather read a journal selected by someone whose aesthetics are antithetical to my own, but who has a stong sense of preference, than a selection by a committee striving for MOD blandness and ecleticism.

3 comentarios:

C. Dale dijo...


John Gallaher dijo...

I'm not sure what a perfect "meritocratic process" might look like, but I agree that poetry doesn't seem to arise from such a thing, in general.

But, on the other hand, not all fights are fixed.

And what of the situations in which the system works the other direction, where friendship bonds work from an admiration of the work, toward friendship?

And yet, as with "taste," there is no way for outsiders to follow the backtrail.

Jonathan dijo...

How true. I could never be friends with a poet whose work I didn't respect.