Posted by The Happy Tutor
Why, for example, Alan Sondheim uses listservs rather than a blog for distribution of his texts, is beyond me, unless it is because it is harder for readers to opt out of seeing them on a list. It still doesn’t mean that they get read, but it has reduced at least one list, ImitationPoetics, to a kind of Sondheim-driven silence.
My only contact with Sondheim's work has been through links and emails from Vitro Nasu. I am ignorant of, detached from, but respectful of his world and range of reference. What struck me most following the links intertwined around Silliman and Sondheim was how far the whole poetics and critical theory scene is from the world I live in, whether in WB flogging the rich for their pleasure and instruction, or in the Dumpster planning Carnival on a zero budget. The idea of art as detached, as opposed to being public and engaged, strikes me more and more as a great cultural tragedy. Brands, soundbites, Infotainment News, PR, all of that "rhetoric" draws on the same tools as poetry and the visual arts, and many trained in one end up in the other. We are being killed as a culture and as humans by so much bad art. And the good remains most often coterie art, the product of a hot-house university, arts grant, cliquish culture. Snobbery of sorts? The poet talking to a few poets, or none at all. The concern for rank and status in the eyes of a few fellow poets. Carnival, satire, parody, the novels of Solzhenitzen, the plays of Havel, the work of Jaroslav Hasek, the poetry of Brodsky, the lesson of Bakhtin, (let alone the whole classical and neoclassical tradtion of art as rhetoric and public performance) show that art as "rhetoric" (in the sense that all poetry is rhetoric, a carefully crafted set of verbal strategies) to engage the public need not be "propaganda;" it can simply be a mode of engagement with an audience coming to voice, a movement of the spirit or culture, or whatever you all it to ends higher than Brands and the Market. Poetry for poets is like sermons for theology students, or Brand for Brand Builders, or shoes for cobblers. Poetry more than ever should come upward from the streets, the voice of a spirit that will not be reduced to commodities and markets, a wounded spirit fighting for its own survival, and our survival, not nattering quietly for a few afficionados. "Be thou, Spirit fierce, My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! - Shelley.