"Josh," says I,
I don't think you've entirely clarified (to yourself or to me) the range of desires you're trying to articulate.Here was his reply, with comments by me inter alia:
Some are practical: health insurance, more opportunities to publish, more attention from potential readers.
Some are social: the "association to mutual creative benefit" you speak of here; the encouragement; the honest opinions, etc.
Others here I find harder to name, maybe because they're incohate or maybe just because I'm not a poet, and so don't know what you're up against or going through. This desire for "dignity" for example...or for the "capacity for giving" to be enlarged. Or for "life." What are the losses, the frustrations, the lacks that these are meant to assuage? To what extent are they shared, unnecessary, and political, and how much are they really much more local, more idiosyncratic, more about you, age X in situation Y?
Eric, both you in your snarky post (is "snarky" a more fun way of saying "cynical"?Yes! Ain't it grand? I learned it from the ladies in romance--check out, for example, the snarkalicious comments on trashy cover art at the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog.
...you and Aaron Tieger in his post worry that I've forgotten about readers. But if you wanted to quote Thoreau the way Mark did, surely you don't mean to suggest that we all should start writing poems that folks wanna read? You know, poems that rhyme and stuff?Who's snarky now? I mean, really, Josh. This reminds me of a horrible exchange I had once with a famous & tenured avant-garde poet who saw no difference between reading Yeats and watching the Late Show. Contempt for the audience much? Ah, well--a dozen years of teaching undergraduates and judging teen poetry slams will give you some idea of the poems that folks want to read, even if it doesn't give you any more respect for their taste.
I rather take that quote as meant to nudge its reader out of the selfish circle of his concerns: it's akin to what some people have said about how we should worry about health care for everyone and not just poets.No, I think the Thoreau quote--in my hands, since I can't speak for Mark--was meant to nudge you into remembering that you're hardly the first writer to feel put upon because your efforts, your gifts, heck your life's work are not a commodity that many people want to buy, and that just because you show up with them, you can't expect them to do their part and attend.
But that attitude strikes me as quietistic. As if you'll be able to have any impact on global warming if you don't start taking better care of your own neighborhood first.Straw man, this. I think in general the political analogies are misplaced here, Josh. What you're really after is some sort of renaissance in--or first birth of--a Civil Society of Poetry. Politics is not the cure for this literary bowling alone.
Yeah, my desires are inchoate. It's a POETS' union, damnit. Its primary function might very well be the fuller articulation of its members' desires, which is the first step toward pursuing them.Hmmm... don't know what you want, but you know how to get it, eh?
Surely, Eric, you don't blame poets and poets alone for the dearth of readers out there? You're a Ronald Johnson fan, aren't you? You think his work is beautiful, offering many pleasures? Why then is he so obscure? Would writing diffferent kinds of poems have solved that problem? Easier poems? Do they get any easier than his concrete work?Whew! That hits close to home. Let me put this as plainly as I can, Josh: RJ is obscure because I'm not Marjorie Perloff, Helen Vendler, or Harold Bloom. If I were--heck, if I hadn't taken five years off the conference and publication circuit, for the sake of my marriage and my kids, but been out there preaching the good word--RJ studies would be in a very different place right now. By all means, though--Mark, Josh, everyone--let's have this discussion. What would have made, or would now make, the difference?
What I'm saying is: if you want to address the dearth of readers, address the dearth of readers. I don't think that anything you've said so far about the Poets Union (PU--maybe not the best acronym?) does anything to address it either.
OK: off the soapbox. I have kids to feed.