Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ron Silliman shuts down his comments section

It's a sad thing that Silliman felt he had to shut down his comments section, but I understand his weariness with having to act as the lunchroom monitor. The image persists, I suppose, that poets are as a class more sensitive, intelligent, intuitive and respectful of the feelings of others, and that as a class wouldn't be caught dead being intrusive, abusive creeps, but my experience online shows otherwise; a good many, that is to say, too many poets who are drawn to comments blog with a large readership seem uniformly convinced that they, as individuals, are unrecognized geniuses who have convinced themselves that the anger they constantly brew is a righteous call to speak a blunt truth to those whom they've judged as frauds, posers, fakes, or merely mediocre. It's self-righteousness, of course, and the exchanges one might have with the practitioners of unprovoked invective is an extreme test of one's patience.The desire of the sort Silliman is tired of dealing with isn't to exchange views, but only to attack and achieve some perverted pride in proving that their intellect and energy are dedicated to little more than maintaining an unceasing stream of hurtful things to say to people they don't know. There are times when the poetry forums I've participated in more closely resembled the political free for all that are in abundance on the internet. It's a full-time job to maintain order and civility on a forum with a dedicated topic, and I suspect that Ron Silliman has more interesting things to do with his time than keep watch over the willfully immature. Poets and poetry readers are not immune to being jerks. What of the rest of us? Maybe we'll have to turn off the computer and find someone, in the flesh, to talk to these things about. How important is poetry to us, anyway. Significant enough to get out of our seats and go into the community where we live to support poetry by attending readings, buying poetry books, forming live, in person discussion groups about poetry?  Do we care enough about the importance of the work of poets to dare discuss it in real-world circumstances where we would find better, more considered phrases with which to disagree with one another? Or find out how interesting those we disagree with actually are once we take a risk and get to know them as more than an example of an enemy ideology?  Could there be a rebirth of wonder?

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