The Loneliness of the Long Distance Blogger: Sharon Mesmer on Poetry and Theory in The Brooklyn Rail
"Poetry has become an overscheduled toddler run ragged by ambitious, bickering parents, its very existence a compromised simulacrum of their disharmonious projections and expectations". In this article, Sharon Mesmer identifies an issue that has also been troubling me for a very long time. The causes have been argued and discussed by poets and others for years. Mesmer focusses on the addiction to "debate" as one of the problems, a topic I have taken up on *fait accompli* countless times. The last time I wrote about this during the presidential debates of 2004 it was becoming very clear to me that the "debate" model was failing to inspire and sputtering to a halt.(Time March's On, 3/2/04) This year Obama and Biden are likely to impress and the other team to depress. But in the poetry world, it's getting tiresome. Don't get me wrong. The 70's poetry debates, following the breath of expressive freedom of the 60's, were invaluable, even, at times, beautiful to contemplate. But after more than 25 years of echoes, the model is wearing thin. If there ever was indeed a "politics of poetic form" that political point has been more than made. It has been paddled around to death and is now choking off the poetry, or at least focus on the poetry. The assumption is that creating controversy creates interest. In the case of contemporary poetry, the reverse is happening. Instead of making the poetry scene vibrant, it is making it soggy. The arguments are not snappy, they are stale. Although Sharon doesn't say this, and may not even be thinking this, to me this debate form in poetry is a masculine, tennis or racket ball oriented adaptation of dealing with issues of concern to poets. Game over. What would I substitute? Responding to the work of specific poets thoroughly, carefully, lovingly, angrily, lightly, whatever. Making observations and arriving at conclusions based on actual poems, not the strategies of your "team" with the endless arguments about the dynamics, the advantages and disadvantages, the importance and unimportance of "types" of poetry. Let's give it a break, guys.