Sunday, March 25, 2007

Charles Bernstein on National Poetry Month

April is nearly upon us, and it's time for us to prepare for the minor onslaught of platitudes major publishers will offer their readership as they give lip service to National Poetry Month. Expect a short flurry of big ads, poets advertised who don't usually appear in publisher promotions, and then little if anything at all once the month and the would-be mania for poets and their work abates. Doesn't it seem ironic to anyone that April was picked to be the commemorating period because of Eliot's famous line, which is that the month is "cruel"? This is either amnesia or some ad person pasting together bric a brac to add more sizzle to their pizazz. Charles Bernstein doesn't like National Poetry Month either, and waxes on the point here. It's worth a read.It's a buzz kill the entrenched poets, the few who have measures of fame, position and (yes) money garnered from activities other the popular sale of their books
would rather not grapple with. Bernstein essentially makes the point that by placing "poetry"
(as defined by marketing research in attempts to make it palatable to a reading public that could care less about poets and their poems) of a campaign to spread the word have, in effect, marginalized even more. Bernstein, a smart cookie if a didactic poet, prefers a form without sanctioned codification and conditions that can challenge , fester, disturb,
disrupt; this Disneyland approach to promoting poetry encourages writing with middling ambition, producing middling results. At that point it ceases to be poetry.