You ever been to a poetry reading?
My favorite ones are open mics. Because they’re unintentionally hilarious. Everyone is really serious. Everyone is afraid to make a joke.
Because guess what?
Poetry is SERIOUS BUSINESS AND IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE THIS YOU CAN’T BE A POET, YOU BETTER BE A STAND-UP COMEDIAN INSTEAD BECAUSE THERE’S NO ROOM FOR YOU IN POETRY.
Unfortunately, that’s the message a lot of writers. Really talented ones that could do stuff to the form that no one’s expecting. And that’s the problem.
In lit, there’s no room for disruption any longer. It just doesn’t seem to be accepted.
Here’s an article that someone referred to me recently. From “The State of Risk in PoMo Verse”:
In the present literary culture, a revolutionary poetics will be one that is either anonymously authored, authored by those situated outside the culture, or authored by those within the culture who are willing to be placed outside of it by mere acts of authorship.
Did you see that last part? There are those within poetry circles that want to challenge it, but to do so means banishment. Like being kicked out.
For example, this Elizabeth Ellen story is really telling. She voiced an opinion people didn’t agree with, so SHE’S TAKEN OUT OF AN ANTHOLOGY.
Yep, that’s censorship if anyone’s wondering. In the lit community. We’re not talking about a big corporation with a PR firm, we’re talking about people who are supposed to be “challenging” widely held beliefs. Those “widely held beliefs” used to be conservative and so literature took those down with some postmodern stuff, but now if you’re challenging postmodernism (as the 1st essay link above notes) you’ll be kicked out for that.
What to do?
Do you defend the present literary culture or challenge it?
Seth Abramson in the article above says you have to disavow the situational postmodernism, pursue something that may actually be sincere and be willing to risk the “social costs.”
That’s a type of “metamodern” poem, and the social costs could be something like:
A metamodern poem, published at a certain moment and in a certain venue, can result in public disavowals from a poet’s publisher; massive depletion of one’s social media network; the loss or threatening of a poet’s employment or educational status; public allegations of the most hateful and ad hominem sort, disguised as disinterested critique; even death threats to the author and his family.
What’s the natural consequence of then? People are leaving literature and poetry. They’d rather write screenplays. They’d rather do graffiti. They’d rather write tumblr gifs that are a type of ‘poetry’ but typical poets won’t accept them.
They’d rather do creative writing, but not call it “creative writing” because that term is too calcified.
Poetry and literature need more outside voices, not those trained and desired by the contemporary academy.
Very few of us will pull this off. Will you?