Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dead Poets And Lonely Writers

Again, from a PGS blog reader, first: Dead Poets Society, by way of Melvillehouse Publishing:

“Don’t get me wrong,” says Patrick Gillespie. “I love poetry. But as far as the public is concerned, poetry died with the modernists.”

In a thoughtful essay on PoemShape, Gillespie says

… though there remain a number of minor masters and one hit wonders, few passing pedestrians could name a poet from the last 50 to 60 years – let alone the same poet, let alone the title of a poem, let alone a first line. Even though I’ve never watched a single game of ice hockey from beginning to end, I know who Wayne Gretzky is. And even though I’ve never watched more than two holes of golf, I know that Tiger Woods is not just a gifted philanderer, but a great golfer.

So what happened? Gillespie cites a New Yorker article by Dana Goodyear about Poetry magazine founder Harriet Monroe, who, says Goodyear, “wanted to protect poets from the demands of popular taste.” But the rise of sheltering institutions, says Gillespie, meant poets were working ” without consequence. And when any human being, let alone poets, can act without consequence, the dogs of mediocrity, narcissism and hedonism will be let loose. … It’s my own opinion that Monroe’s attitude is toxic and anathema to great art and poisonous to art in general. It’s a shame and the results are indisputable. When poets left their audience, their audience left them.”

Not that there isn’t a solution, according to Gillespie:

The best thing that could happen to poetry is to drive it out of the universities with burning pitch forks. Starve the lavish grants. Strangle them all in a barrel of water. Cast them out. The current culture, in which poetry is written for and supported by poets has created a kind of state-sanctioned poetry that resists innovation. When and if poetry is ever made to answer to the broader public, then we may begin to see some great poetry again – the greatness that is the collaboration between audience and artist.

Rather provocative, eh?

And now, from dead poets to lonely writers, via Maud Newton:

A friend who just finished writing a(n excellent) book in a short period of time says you have to ignore your brain when it tells you it’s done for the day. You may think you can’t keep going, but if you push on, what comes out will be even better. The next day, do the same. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Also, no socializing. Apart from whatever job pays the bills, do nothing but sleep, eat, procrastinate, and write.

See also Peter Straub’s Twitter bio: “my profession obliges me to enjoy solitary confinement.”

If you're a poet or a writer, is this you? :D

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