Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Donald at Poetry

I am no booster of the person I think it is obvious has played a crucial role in bringing about the critical shift in US poetry from dead white male Ivy league academics to the "multicultural inclusiveness” being celebrated in this piece at The Atlantic, How Poetry Came to Matter Again, and I have many times satirically mocked them.

Mostly when joining in with the deprecation of him by an ex-Facebook poet-friend who has a real animosity towards the most important poetry editor in the US. 

But reading the linked article above, it struck me that nowhere in this opinion-thesis charting and explaining the how, what, when, where, and why of the rise of Millennidentitarian SJW poets from a fringe to a mainstream consciousness; does the name appear of the one person whose advocacy, I would argue it is obvious, has been central to, and most responsible for, changing the critical focus of US poetry away from the continual celebration of a handful of middle-class male academic poets, and onto what were previously the marginalized and underrepresented communities and schools of poets that were wholly outside the tent of Official Verse Culture in the US.

Don Share, Editor of Poetry, the oldest, richest, and most critically regarded monthly in the world dedicated to the publication of verse, who for six years was the Senior Editor and theoretical second in command to the former Editor of Poetry (2003-13), Christian Wiman.

Share began his tenure as chooser in chief at Poetry in 2013, after taking over from his former boss, whose own narrow poetic tastes and publishing decisions during his decade in charge of setting the tone of US poetry, were ultra-conservative. Wiman's choices ran to publishing month in month out the usual merry-go-round of white Ivy League male insiders of Official Verse Culture, with the odd token female, black and ethnic minority academic thrown in.

Share however within a short space of time had totally overhauled and changed the house publication of the Poetry Foundation, ditched the dead white male Ivy League academics, and turned it into a contemporary poetry publication that is the polar opposite of what it was under Wiman; publishing many of the previously outsider poets mentioned in Lichtenstein's piece.


The Atlantic article is, I would argue, the most recent iteration of a very cyclical 'Poetry is the New Rock N Roll' meme. One that gets written and published in a prominent Establishment magazine every few years; and, in this instance, contains the names of young ambitious hip hep and wholly American poety poos doing their thang on the other side of the Atlantic.

The poets advertised in these pieces are usually also friends and/or colleagues of the crafty composer of the prose vehicle pushing a narrative that there is a movement of literary originals and outsiders afoot, and something radically new in the realm of poetic language is occurring. The creation of a collective poetic buzz, current and wave emerging into mainstream consciousness.

Most of them, inevitably, rather than prophetically delineating the true tides and contemporary currents that end up delivering into a true literary movement the namechecked newbs to full Literary Establishment status in the golden ollavic circle, are little more than puff pieces and boosterism of the author's fellow ambitious colleagues strategically marketing themselves to a wider audience.

However with the indiscriminate-opinion masquerading as analytics model of previous decades now redundant, the author of The Atlantic article, Portland based Oregon writer, Jessie Lichtenstein's claims are situated on firmer critical ground, and are communicated in a more persuasive and plausible form of literary analysis than before. In the fact that he identifies the measurable role YouTube and social-media have played in the emergence of the diverse bunch he is praising.

The one core difference between now and pre-Facebook is the fact that a majority of the poets mentioned in this piece have bypassed what is increasingly a redundant literary-gatekeeper model of poetry publishing; as to get their poetry published, heard and read the emergent poets in the age of social media have created their own audiences on the strength of their live recorded performances and writings alone. Cutting out the previously all powerful curatorial taste-makers and middlemen of the legacy media publishing process, by speaking directly to the Reader online, without the need of submission to, acknowledgment from, or validation of the editorial potentates and pashas of Official Verse Culture.

So the jury is out on how accurate the piece will turn out to be in the years to come. But it is refreshing to read of what by now after more than a decade of debate is what appears to be the fully emerged new model of poetry and publishing that has changed the very concept and meaning of what constitutes being 'published', and opened up the art form to anyone with a phone camera, keypad and internet connection.

One that has silenced the doom and gloom literary experts of legacy media, that during the mid-Noughties were wailing like Medieval scribes at the arrival of the printing press, decrying the pesky internet poets and claiming the sky was falling in with the opening up of literacy to the masses. Arguing only a tiny elite of trained custodians of the real literary Gospel, i.e., themselves, could possibly write anything down.

A relatively recent and far more boringly dense and pretentiously elitist variation of this periodic 'poetry is the new rock 'n' roll' trope, came in 2009 from the pen of a Harvard bardic bluffer that doesn't know his arse from his Auraicept na n-Éces, the academic critic, luvvie and literary artist formerly known as Stephen Burt.

Now Stephanie Burt, they have most recently in the news for their craven and utterly insincere 'apology' for what they claimed was a momentary lapse in editorial 'standards' (as if they have any in the first place) for publishing a few weeks ago in The Nation a wholly harmless persona poem by North Dakota, Fargo poet, Anders Carlson-Wee.

That a lot of equally insincere social-media trolls got professionally offended about on behalf of a slew of communities; and cowed by a mob of hate-filled joyless morons Burt grovelled for forgiveness and hung Carlson-Wee out to dry with their Nation co-editor. Revealing, in one of the most transparently cowardly and shameful events in US poetry this summer; exactly what the ancient speckled art of praise and blame really means to them, and what the true critical quality of poetic eyes and literary integrity they possess. None whatsoever.

A decade before apologizing to bardic hate-preachers for the thought crime of not being attentive enough to the sensitivities of the various communities a tiny few people arrogating themselves membership of were pretending to be offended on behalf of; Burt published a pseudo-intellectual piece of cultural propaganda in the Boston Globe, The New Thing (2009), in which he claimed and prophesied that a few crusty dead-white all male academics and Ivy League-like pals of his were at the forefront of the latest wave of poetic superlatives practicing beyond the cutting edge and articulating a future literary movement in American poetry that was gonna catch on and become: "The New Thing."

Anyone remember that?

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