Hawking Up Hairballs

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Pity The Poetry

There's been a bit of a turmoil in the world of American poetry in the last few months. First, there was the Foetry.com business. Some guy named Alan Cordle started a web site with the above name and started exposing the fraud in some of the most prestigious university poetry and fiction contests. The way these contests generally work, a contest entrant pays a $20-$25 reading fee and supposedly has a chance at winning the prize, which entails publication by the university's press. Foetry.com showed that some of these contests amounted to little more than scams. For example, the Univ. of Iowa contests are generally won by those who have close connections with the university's writing program. The Univ. of Georgia has a poetry contest and the winners of their prizes have been suspicious in some cases. For example, Jorie Graham, a poet now at Harvard Univ., chose her husband as the contest winner when she was the judge. A number of other examples were provided on the site.

More recently, there has been the assertion that there hasn't been any great or compelling American poetry written in the last fifty years. I would tend to agree with that assertion. For one thing, the audience for poetry is even smaller than it was fifty years ago. Hence, there's not much demand for books of poetry. As a result, good poetry and bad poetry will sell just about as well, which is not much at all. In point of fact, poetry as it has been known, isn't terribly relevant in our culture. Poets are right up there with potters. That doesn't mean that poetry is dead, but is found elsewhere than in books of poetry. It comes naturally to the human spirit. The young today find their poetry in other areas, like the lyrics of popular music of various sorts. Look too at the lines that people remember from movies. "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn." There's a certain poetry in that, if I've remembered the line correctly, as there is in Arnold's, "I'll be back." Too bad that he wasn't talking about poetry. I would like to see a poet laureate that mattered.

For those of you who might want a laugh, John Rocker now has a web site, though I'll leave it to you find it. I'm not about to link to the site of the mullet-head fool. Whoever is advising him on PR is really laying it on thick. There's a photo of John holding a kitten, and lots of talk of his work with charity.


Blogger Advocacy and Healing said...

On occasion a state arts council screws up and appoints someone worthy of being a poet laureate. But really, these folks just proved what we know about the poetry rags.

Wanna read some of your poems, btw? I always thought you were a pretty good poet. Or come read some of your novels...I dare you.

2:42 PM  

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