Neoliberal Poetry?

Engrossed, originally uploaded by The Badger Revolution.

Could she be reading a book of poetry? Or possibly the Neoliberal Poetry Broadside? You can find it here. Where I got mine I can’t tell you. It slipped out of a pile of chapbooks I’ve been trying to organize and review the one’s I can review so who knows where I got it. I was happy to find it though, if mildly irritated by a line or two. Mostly I was amused. Though it made me wonder whether it’s “neoliberal poetry” that has been making me so cranky of late. Wading through a whack of poetry (reviews to come) I became very irritated. So much posturing and so little to say.

Here is the typical language of branding: “Here’s what it takes to be the CEO of Me, Inc. . . . the main chance is becoming a free agent in an economy of free agents, looking to have the best season you can imagine in your field, looking to do your best work & chalk up a remarkable track record, & looking to establish your own micro equivalent of the Nike swoosh.” Under neoliberalism, the contemporary poetry scene–especially the “innovative” scene – has succumbed to branding…

Though no branch of poetry is immune. The “I just write what I feel” school which is “tantamount to the quiver of a jellyfish-like sentimentality…” Yes, and no feeling at all…if a poem is going to feel, let it feel. I can take it. Make it intense. If it’s going to be all cerebral go for it. Make it way out there. Make me have to spend a weekend reading… Is it wrong to want a poem to say something? “Which one of your little piggies will you chop off first,” the pamphlet asks, “because there are just two positions in the neoliberal order:
Cynicism: the willingness to cut your feet to order
Infantilism: the happy-talk that blinds the other 4 piggies to their predicament
This is a broadside out of Brooklyn. A send up many things, the MFA grad scene, the way in which we talk about poetry, the earnest battle lines, the painful Q&As, the courtly aspects, the characters–Deconstruction Dick etc.

We do take ourselves seriously. More on this when I get to the larger questions lurking in the back of this pamphlet, and my irritation.

There is a pdf, or html version here.

Neoliberal Poetry, Chris Alexander, Kristen Gallagher, Matthias Regan, Brooklyn March, 2007

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