poets have a great deal to say, and they say it with eloquence.
The problem then becomes a matter of exposure. How can a poet promote
himself without turning off his readers with his self-promotion?
How can he assertively promote himself without seeming self-promoting
while at the same time remaining honest? For instance, a poet could
easily have a friend start up a press and run a contest that will
publish him and give him some impressive sounding award that has
no real value whatsoever, given that it was rigged, and then his
friend could nominate him for a Pushcart — something any publisher
or press can do. Besides being dishonest, such tactics do nothing
to lend credibility to small presses.
poets watching a celebrity poet “make it” cannot help but wonder
if a poet’s self-promotion is a diligent, matter-of-fact alternative
to publishing house non-promotion, or if all the applause is the
just reward for an aggressively manipulative, conniving, super-inflated
makes sense for the poet to devise a marketing plan for his poetry
career. The problem is that the poets who excel at self-promotion
are often inferior poets.
then there is the poet who would prefer that readers lust after
his book jacket glamour photo than his exquisite verses, who is
more eager for flattering blurbs than good poems.
is difficult for good poets who happen to be shy and non-aggressive
to watch self-promoters who obviously covet publication in designer
label journals, prostitute themselves (figuratively, of course)
as a form of solicitation, then snub their nose at anyone lacking
this elitist validation they so self-righteously abhor. What purest
poet has not joked about the self-promoter pursuing an adoring entourage
of dilettantes that will fall prostrate before him? Well known is
the poetaster less interested in creating great art than in one-night
stands with comrades of the conference.
is difficult for most struggling poets to admit. Why bite the hand
that serves the d’oeuvres?
may seen unfair to distinguish between the true poet and the poetaster.
As I tell my students with genuine passion, at least we’re writing,
at least we’re trying. We’re all just groping in the dark, making
our way toward satisfying self-expression. Poetry is, always,
even for the great, an apprenticeship.
should poetry be a collaborative effort?
the postmodernists are right in claiming that a poem has no creator,
that any poem is simply text randomly constructed from given words
governed by rules and conventions of collective language that could
have been written by anyone, and therefore no poet has a just claim
to the title of author. Not to mention the slash and burn that goes
on in workshops.
of us worry about such claims. There is nothing wrong with outside
stimulus or ongoing education, but what happens if the poet never
learns to tap his own imagination for topics to write about, if
he forever needs another textbook, how-to manual, class, writers
group, or other external resource to do his generative thinking
for him? Should teachers not teach the poet to be his own best editor?
Why then does he need yet another workshop to help him through the
writing process, a lifelong mentor to point out his weaknesses and
strengths, an editor to, well, edit his poems? Are his poems his,
or are they collaborations? Is what we call a writing community
really group codependency?
work hard to validate students’ efforts, but could this eternal
head-patting prevent poets from growing up? Is there no great poetry
in part because we have no faith in the poet’s ability to be self-sufficient?
disconcerting to ask oneself if ones favorite poet truly wants to
write poetry that delves into humanity’s deepest dimensions, that
moves, enlightens, excavates the hero, elevates culture, saves the
soul with the exquisite presence of its truth, or if he simply wants
mommy to pat his head and tape his ditty to the fridge. It would
be interesting to ask him if he would prefer being lauded for a
book of poems he knows are not that good, or writing a great book
of poems that will be appreciated by an educated, attentive few,
and if he would prefer being a great poet for a posterity that will
likely be aborted by world holocaust, or a mediocre celebrity poet
would a world welcoming great poetry even look like? Could we settle
for a highly educated, deeply appreciative poetry subculture? What
would developing that involve?
notion of organic poetry should be taken quite literally in the
broadest sense. Biologists claim that when a species ceases to evolve,
it becomes extinct. Perhaps the extinction of great poetry is a
sign that the soul has ceased to evolve.
again, perhaps a few incubating great poets will suddenly take a
quantum leap of creative emergence, dragging us all — apprentices,
poetasters, even kicking and screaming postmodernists — into their