Saturday, July 14, 2007

No poems about Poetry, pt.2



A friend opined over a soft drink, responding to my misgivings against poems about poetry, that it might be argued that all poems written are about other poems.I drew one of my hair-splitting distinctions.There are indeed good poems about poetry, but they are rare and the product of genius, which is also rare. That it can be argued that all great poems are about poetry, I doubt this can withstand close scrutiny.A poem about a poem forms a dialogue, which implies a basis in felt experience. Empathy for the human condition, to risk a cliche. Poems about poetry, as form, amounts to no more than studying the instruction manual and never taking the driving test.It's a form of mystification that gets in the way of good writing.

The point, however, is that what we're talking about are poems by modern bards that forefront poetry as subject matter and hedge on their duties to their craft by euphemising about their inability or their unwillingness to engage experience. I am not anti-intellectual, and I am not one who pillories the Academy each chance available, but there is something odious about the way poetry has been institutionalized by Universities and turned into a Profession, a situation that has caused many contemporary poets to take themselves too seriously, ie, serious in ways that have little to do with art and everything with to do with status.

Writing poems about poetry is symptomatic of this thinking, a tenuous boosterism designed to convince the poet, his colleagues and the small audience for that sort of self-congratulating offal that what they do really is important, it really matters, honest, we as poets have hard time of it, swear to God, I mean, no one knows what we go through, right?, no one knows how terrible it is to bear the strain of having a muse and a Geiger counter sensitivity, you know?, yeah , you know, you know what I'm saying, yeah, yeah... You get the idea.

All this furious scribbling , much of it has appeared here as Pinsky choice in the four or five years I've been here, is vainglory, art without valor, a template of maneuvers where one quite literally fills in the blanks or shifts around some plot points or shifts the expected alienated and alienating effects.It always reads as false, contrived, nervous,unmoving.It is tragic that so many young writers have gotten degrees in creative writing only to write such witless drivel.