There are some aspects of the contemporary poetry world that I find particularly disturbing. The fact of what Emily Warn described recently on Harriet as the Pyramid Scheme that is the MFA industry is one. The popularity contest is another. That I allowed poetry to become muddied this way bothers me. I don’t take readers or followers of this blog lightly. Nor do I take my friends and my network of poets lightly. So, that I spent time this week advocating for votes is strange and a little off-putting.
On the other hand, the best part of the entire process was hearing from people who share a similar vision of poetry. People who believe in poetry as community, but not a community made only of inspiration and support, but of advocacy and difficulty, of agitation and experiment, innovation and archive, disagreement and challenge, a community that presses one another to think beyond and move beyond the small world of the “I.”
As well, I heard from family, which for me was particularly sweet. My only living maternal aunt, some 80 years, got wind and was advocating on my behalf. She got hold of cousins I have not seen in twenty years and urged them to vote. My uncle was a politician, and my aunt understands the process of acquiring votes you see, so it was a surprise, her energy at my virtual doorstep, and if anything spurred me on, it was her desire to aid me in this way. Poetry, she may not quite understand, or like, but votes–that she could do.
So while I am thankful for that energy, it is back to the actual work of poetry now. Which is, as I said in a Tweet the other day, more a business of silence and introspection than self promotion and publication. Whether the poetry is conceptual, or lyric, or narrative, or formal, or comes from a place of play, or political will, or a desire to express emotion, silence is the air of poetry, the depth, the elasticity. There is a reason writing poetry takes time–and it is not only about the crafting of it, or the gathering of material, it is that relationship to self and to values that one needs to constantly keep in check.
As for the laureate, the tie, the sudden calling of the vote without letting anyone know that the voting was actually over? It’s actually a fitting end I suppose. A reminder that, as Mr. Jacob Mooney said, people make too much of things. And it is arbitrary and artificial, unlike the oil that will reach the shore some time this afternoon. That is very real. And at the risk of sounding melodramatic, that, and our addiction to oil is what we need to be taking more seriously.
Thanks again to all who voted and advocated and believe in poetry. I was truly inspired by your support. And congrats to my competition.
I will report on the matter of my status of half-laureate and what I will accomplish with my tenure shortly. Perhaps we should have been required to supply these statements prior to the madness?