Printer Friendly


It would seem that truth is the unassailable and most basic quality of literature... It would be best also for the writer to revert to the role of witness and strive to present the truth... It is this non-utilitarian aspect of literature that is fundamental to literature. That the writing of literature has become a profession is an ugly outcome of the division of labor in modern society and a very bitter fruit for the writer... This is especially the case in the present age where the market economy has become pervasive and books have also become commodities... If the writer does not bend to the pressures of the market and refuses to stoop to manufacturing cultural products by writing to satisfy the tastes of fashions and trends, he must make a living by some other means. Literature is not a best-selling book or a book on a ranked list and authors promoted on television are engaged in advertising rather than in writing. Freedom in writing is not conferred and cannot be purchased but comes from an inner need in the writer himself. The writer writes what he wants without concern for recompense not only to affirm his self but also to challenge society. This challenge is not pretence and the writer has no need to inflate his ego by becoming a hero or a fighter.

--Gao Xingjian, Nobel Lecture, 2000

Considering the inherent corruption in literary prizes (see Neruda's Confieso que he vivido, and the Pushcart and Pulitzer essays on The AD website), it is difficult to fathom how writers, now and then, with sharp critical minds and tongues manage to win laurels-Saramago several years ago and now Xingjian pumping up the Nobel with much needed nobility (i.e., hard truth).

Today, poetry has become infected with poetics and word gamery. Where the truth and wisdom in digital poetics, antipoesia, language poetry, post-language poetry, prehensil language poetry, ekphrastic poetry, disembodied poetics, haibun, and "language-oriented" formal experimentation? Let poetry, first and foremost, constitute writing intrinsically enmeshed with truth, wisdom, and the First Amendment.

This issue of The American Dissident constitutes a fifth anti-droplet in the vast bucket of American poetry and writing whose sole purpose has become entertainment, feel-good or intellectual. Such diversion is, of course pro-status quo, thus quite political. Read Orwell's "The Prevention of Literature." Can droplet #5 actually serve a purpose? Who will listen to its critique with poets now more than ever reduced to donkeys desperate for carrots and Hollywood Squares' performance-clowns? Poets have become more interested in the Principles of Marketing than in poetry. How it pains as citizen poet to examine the literary fraud and hot air, including that supported by National Poetry Month, NEH, National Education Association, Associated Writing Programs, Library of Congress and Poets & Writers, Incorporated.

Though not appointed by solons or academic ad hoc committee, The American Dissident will continue serving as watchdog. The vaste quantity of banal or ludicrous statements and mercantile behavioral modes stemming from poets and writers today will keep The AD busy. What would H. L. Mencken have thought of the following egregious example of literary fluff?
   Riding the Meridian exists to seek out and support new forms of
   literary art based on Internet technology and emerging theories, to
   facilitate communication [...]. Only a year ago, web writers were
   comfortable calling html-code-intensive works hypertext. But now
   that term seems lacking, incapable of describing the myriad
   technical approaches now available and the creative changes which
   working in a web-specific medium has wrought. Rather than attempt
   to classify the work in separate categories--here is the text, here
   is the hypertext, here is the concrete poem-la-what follows is a
   kaleidoscopic view of the creative approaches being used today by
   some of our most innovative writers. This is what we choose to call
   Lit [art] ure.

For an example of incredible poet pomposity, read the 20-page roundtable 'dialogue' of Loss Pequeno Glazier, Director of the Electronic Poetry Center at U. of Buffalo, Judy Malloy, Johanna Drucker, and Mark Amerika (www.heelstone .com/meridian). "Emerging theories" is one of many catch phrases choking Academe to death. Have academic poets run out of new theories such that the old ones have to be merged to produce novelty? Innovation, of course, brings in grant monies, but innovative language and imagery must never become a substitute for truth and wisdom and end in itself. Yet, they have become just that. As illustration of how aberrant things in the ivory tower, here's a description of Glazier's recent poetry expulsion (from Riding the Meridian):
   "Viz Etudes" is a series of performances that present a reading and
   projection of a number of visual, kinetic, text, and
   JavaScript-based compositions for electronic space, works which
   mine the more pliant possibilities of e-poetry and explore the
   material dimensions of writing in electronic space through the use
   of elements such as moving text, imbedded sound files, and layered
   text as properties of writing.

The deal with technology (or innovation... or the grant-according machine) is a Faustian one, and can only result in a soul sold, that is, if the poet had one to sell in the first place. It is the ever softening/dulling of the literary mind and the immense and pervasive design of sameness in Academe that is so troubling. It is amazing to observe the very same courses, same lingo, same job ads, and same responses to criticism from one institution of higher learning to the next, whether in Alaska, Texas, New York, California or Massachusetts. The same utter lack of inquisitiveness and questioning and challenging on the part of faculty and students only supports the contention that the corporation has indeed consumed both literature and higher education. What happens when a poet is nominated, designated, or accepted? Does he or she ask what that means? If not, then public education has failed. When King Log: A Journal of Poetry touts itself as "one of the best online poetry magazines," why does editor David Case simply gloat, instead of wonder--and wonder is what a poet should do--who the judges, which judges chose the judges ... and why? Lack of inquisitiveness serves the status quo.

As poet-citizen I find myself periodically depressed, knocked down upon the mat, and often by submissions sent by poets who think The American Dissident is just another market for their mellifluous versifications. Alan Britt (Reistertown, MD), for example, wrote "perhaps something here is a fit for The American Dissident." But The American Dissident seeks poet soldiers of truth and wisdom, not stray poems that may fit. Britt sent a brochure for his America Tango chapbook with a blurb by Chief Blurber Robert Bly: "These are flower poems, that blossom..." I gave Britt the benefit of grave doubt and read the first two of his nine poems. "Dragon" begins: "As I dozed in a soft, teal chair/ a dragon entered my window." Lyn Lifshin sent a packet of beat-up, staple-holed, rejected poems, but no query, just a rubberstamped: "S.A.S.E. FOR RETURN OF UNUSED POEMS." Imagine making a rubberstamp for that! What pains is the inability of MFA and other educated poets to read guidelines. True, the demand that publishing credits not be included may appear harsh, even bordering on literary torture, such that those few who can read the words, simply refuse to believe them. Thus, several times per week, I receive cover-letter statements almost identical to the one sent, for example, by Michael Graves (Brooklyn, NY): "I am a widely published poet with more than one hundred thirty (130) poems in various journals and magazines, including The Journal of Irish Literature (4), The Hollins Critic (10), and [on and on and on]." Notice how he emphasizes 130. His is the national obsession with the best, the most, and winning. What about truth and wisdom? Producing massive numbers of poems has become the goal of so many poets today, not to mention yesterday (Blackw. Mag. observed in 1818, "Of all the manias of this mad age, the most incurable ... seems to be no other than the metromanie [i.e., mania for writing poetry]." The Guinness Book of Poetry does exist, where poets are judged according to the sheer quantity of poems published. Bulk quantity leads to fame in America. How did poetry ever reach such a piteous state? Ask the Dustbooks, Pushcart, National Poetry Month, and academics, including Professor Allen Ginsberg who somehow got away with kissing the Academy's ass, never criticizing it.

To achieve renown, the poet must also establish a network of friends. Every poet known has been or is surrounded by such a network. The Beatnik club comes to mind. Real loners, who truly choose to exercise keen critical mind and observation, will never be recognized, for their critique and observation must ineluctably fall upon poetry pushers and networking circles. Great poetry will disappear continually due to these evident truths. Self-publishing could counter this, if not for its extremely limited means of dissemination.

In any case, being friendly would seem to favor the creation of a large network far more than being critical. Ferlinguetti, in his recent essay (see icon ridden Exquisite Corpse at issue_8/critiques /ferling.htm), seems satisfied with friendliness or niceness as principle poet trait: "It was a dubious pleasure to read that Stanley Kunitz, the much-loved 95-year-old poet of Provincetown and Greenwich Village, is the new U.S. poet laureate... A pleasure, that is, to see this 'poet's poet' get the big-daddy laurel, for no nicer fellow could be found anywhere." However, Ferlinguetti then states that even better than niceness, "It's Time for a Populist Laureate." But given the populace, wouldn't we be a lot better off if a poete maudit with aura of truth, rather than niceness or pleasing of the populace, were anointed Laureate?

Why must American poets be NICE to get published and laurelled? NICE poets are tedious, shake hands with corrupt college presidents, and read ineffectual verse in front of yawning university students. They render poetry limp and inoffensive. NICE poets are business-as-usual poets. Exquisite Corpse manages to publish tonnage of name-brand poetaster pap and obtain plenty of grant cash from the NEH and NEA by "stroking." Editor Andrei Codrescu declares ... regarding himself: "Like Zeus, he decides which swans to fry and which minotaurs to stroke." Talk about ego blotation! Yeah, Andrei, we know which ones you stroke and we know what damage you do to American literature by "stroking." You and your staff have become poseurs, desperate for attention, as if proudly saying: Fuck the truth, we're a clubhouse and members only! Unlike Andrei, I'm a born and raised American and can't get shitpaper from the State. except a tax bill, of course. Yeah, I'm pissed off! When icons become frauds, its time to take out the sledgehammer!

On another note, or almost, from poete maudit Villon, who named and hammered real people in his Testament, I voyage in search of hard truth ... back another several hundred years to poete maudit Rutebeuf. How amazing to read his negative sketch of life in the 13th C, mirror of life today. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme marde. How many pages of a known author's book must we read before a phrase of wisdom, 300, a thousand?

Finally, the poets and writers appearing in The American Dissident generally share at least one point in common: something is profoundly wrong in Academe, the Literary Establishment, and the Nation. We are keen observors, not easily duped or insulted. Somehow we've all escaped indoctrination. We are the hope of the Nation, not its enemy. Hope too has come from the University of Buffalo, which has just subscribed. It is the only university to have done so. My sincere thanks to whomever. Interestingly, I'd criticized some of Buffalo's poet professors and had even proposed a paper lampooning its E-Poetry Festival 2001 held at the Marriott Hotel. Clearly, those professors are not yet aware of the new acquisition ... or constitute a rare bird in Academe, one I'm still not convinced exists. I shall not cease criticizing higher education, nor faculty members at Buffalo. Au contraire, I will continue biting that hand, even if it does begin to feed The American Dissident. For the benefit of students and the Nation, Academe must open its doors to unapproved criticism. Until it does, we should replace the American bald eagle with the American bald buzzard, depicted in Gerald Wheeler's cover photo. Aux armes, citoyens!!!

Et de voz diz et de voz rimes, Que chacuns deust conjoir. Mais li coars nes daingne oir Por ce que trop i at de voir.

--Rutebeuf 13th C

Regarding your poems and verse Which everyone ought appreciate But cowards don't deign hear Because too much veracity.
COPYRIGHT 2001 The American Dissident
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:American poetry
Publication:The American Dissident
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2001
Previous Article:Testing the waters of democracy.
Next Article:Illuminating Information.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters