Monday, November 20, 2006

Alternapoetry I'm resistant to talk about this "post-Graham poetry world," in short, because this book was not by any means a shot across the bow it's played up to be. The whole point of bringing up the Graham book, to me, is ignoring whole schools of poetry that have been affected by what Burt accurately describes as a merging and commingling of schools. If I had to point to a particular moment, some general; readership-friendly tipping point in which the American poetry world looked as if there was some kind of glasnost/watermark/new day, it certainly would not be Jorie Graham's third collection. The book's release may have had an effect on Harvard undergrads at the time or shortly thereafter (Burt), her champion Helen Vendler, and perhaps an academic poetry coterie that didn't go far past Boston/Amherst and Iowa City.
I'm trying to think of alternative examples, rather than keeping on bitching on Burt for using that one. OK. For me, off the bat, I'd point to three events:
1. the success of James Tate's 1995 book Worshipful Company of Fletchers; followed by 2. the period leading up to Aloud! Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe winning the National Book Award in 1994; as well as3. the first issue of Fence in c. 1996, edited by Iowa peoples (assumedly Graham students).
Whether one thinks slam/performance poetry sucks or not, slam poetry forced the elbow patch posse into the light and out away from the view, as expressed by Graham herself in a 1992 interview, of poetry being a 'dying art.' And the time around Fence's first issue, its first editorial which expressed exactly my views of the poetry world in general being segregated and awful. And Tate's book, for many poets, reminded us that poetry could be joyful and funny and, yes, sublime.
That kind of critical dreariness from, say, 1970 on, forced American poetry into experimental cul-de-sacs, some that are still shrouded with world- and life-saving importance, emboldened by tenure-track salaries, followed by a EuroWorship of manifesto movements from earlier on in past century, imbued with good ole American Pragmatism. Ug. How boring all this is, you might say. Yes it is boring, I say, and so it most of the poems from those strains of American poetry, but they were and still are presented to poets and undergraduates as the only valid paths to sublimity.
Meanwhile, over those decades, yes, there were all kinds of suck-ass narrative poetry written, outmoded lyrical poems by other overrated poets who won too many of the prizes. But I wouldn't say that Jorie Graham had us sit back as poets or readers, and learn to think outside of our schools, and learn to love John Giorno, Allen Ginsberg or Dara Wier for that matter. I'd give our current generation of poets much more credit than that. I think we just learned to not listen to any of our mentors because they all fucked up the same as anyone else. And we don't choose academia because it's simply not a career option, at least until a lot of people die. And most of us don't think in terms of getting a shitty job at a community college for health insurance.
What a laughable example that last alluded bit was in The Believer article -- a poet cited as being somehow non-mainstream -- I don't know the dude or his work, but Burt frames his life like it's pitiful -- he went to an art college not a creative writing program (OK, that's interesting, and I guess he infers creative writing programs are not the only place poets are created) this poet has been writing poetry for 20 years before his first book (boo hoo, cookie or merit badge?), and teaches at a community college in Florida (after beating out probably 200 candidates, no doubt). Compared with many other poets, this dude's got it good -- what's the problem? And what makes him so alternative? Not going to a creative writing program? Oh please. Can we please get past whether creative writing programs have ruined poetry? [Queen Victoria voice here:] A community college? My word. Someone please give this man a grant!
At the end of the day, articles like this get me depressed, because I see that poet-critics are just like any other magazine writer or writer cursed to write for newspapers -- the editors who hire them are from the same caste, the art they respond to is not the kind that is outside of the same caste. The only way a critic can approach being exemplary these days is to approach the idea of the poem rather than the examples, and stay away from comparing to the current Zeitgeist. Poetry has its own zeitgeist, it doesn't need some corresponding universe, let alone indie rock references, to help it.
For a truly exemplary Burt article in which is his razor-sharp mind is put to better use, I'd read his piece in Jacket, which I've re-read with much pleasure just this morning.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Today was the perfect day.
The weather was already beautiful when I woke up at 8:30. 65 degrees, sunny blue skies, no clouds. I wore my Reefs to school for the first time since October or November.
I only have one class on Fridays, at 11. I mosied into school around 10, did a few pages of reading, and then sat with the crew in the courtyard, soaking up the sun.
Today just felt relaxed. It was the beginning of our spring break. School is always quiet on Fridays, but even more so today, since most people didn't bother coming to class.
After class, 15 or so of us went to lunch-- Mexican. Fajitas, mango and rasberry margaritas, chips and salsa... everybody felt good... everybody was laughing and smiling... It felt good to know that none of us had anything to do for the rest of the day, or for the next week, for that matter.
We took two hours at lunch, sitting and talking long after we'd paid our bill (the place was emptying out, though, so no worries about screwing a waiter out of more tips). On the way to the parking lot, we passed a local grocery store, and decided to explore. That was a good call: Frodo discovered 24 oz cans of PBR. He almost started jumping up and down with sheer joy when he saw them sitting in the refrigerator case.
I bought a 24-oz of Smirnoff Black, and a 24-oz of something called Camo. I only bought it because it's "beer," supposedly, but 9% alcohol, and only like $1.50. So far, I've been afraid to drink it. I'm afraid it's going to be like motor oil, albeit alcoholic motor oil. I hadn't had Smirnoff Black or Ice in a year. We used to drink it all the time in college. I didn't realize until today-- that stuff is super shitty. Man. Gross. Probably not as gross as the Camo is going to be, but gross nonetheless.
Because she was bored, Florida rearranged our living room. Change is good, and I really like the new set-up. IceQueen came over for a little while, but I left her with Florida to walk over to Dairy Queen for blizzards with Frodo.
Later, at my place, we ordered pizza, drank beer, and watched TV before going over to Blockbuster to get "Lost in Translation" and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico." I fell asleep while watching the latter.
Today wasn't a busy day, it was just... perfect. Today felt really good. Everybody was in a good mood, and relaxed. There was no tension, no stress. The weather was beautiful, and driving around with the windows down always makes life good.
Now, I'm going to bed. On tomorrow's agenda: sleeping in, making margaritas and daquiris all day, mayhaps doing some school work, mayhaps not.
Life is good.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It is so secret,it reveals its face only with the dropperand to explore it is if-difficult for me.Sometimes I have the clear impression to include/understand,but suddenly, it is still the mystery.All my efforts often remain without continuation,and even if the sun is shining high and strongthe darkness can invade meto dominate, make ego unconscious to mewho walks in the total black. These is realities that live many people on this ground,is not to know would be it,at would be, the interior of would be;the machine which manages this vastness which is the human being.Indeed we are like individuals who are installed on a horse-gear, and which they do not know its operation.One is although the large wheel turns, but we do not know his engine.It is so secret that one is exceeded by our own imagination, and how much time also by the reason, but its beauty is immenseas the ground which shelters usand it is perhaps this mysterywho involves us to continue, and to even dream some.