Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Email to a poet friend


We are who we are, and it's not easy to tease out why I try to please certain people, my way, and you do yours, but one must be defiant to be a poet, I think. One must insist on being and writing in a very particular way, irrespective of approval or disapproval from anyone. American poets today are conditioned to solicit group sanction at every step of the way, starting with the workshop in their student days, then the yearly convention, and throughout their career path, they're careful to stroke just about every other poet, not just the "right" ones, for who knows who might be able to do what for you down the line. As for the writing, it falls snugly within one camp or another, and as long as one's allowed to squat at one's chosen weenie roast, then all is well, sort of, though the insecurity and paranoia persist.

Dale Smith told me a funny story: He and Hoa Nguyen invited a poet to do a reading at their Austin house, and these occasions were always fantastically organized and well attended. Years later, Dale invited the same poet to read at the Toronto University where he had gotten a job. The poet emailed Dale to say that she was still upset over how she was treated by Dale and Hoa in Austin. Dale had no fuckin' idea what she was talking about, of course, but he wasn't the least upset. He let Hoa handle this delicate matter and being, and the poet did come to Toronto to read. After the reading, a bunch of poets hung out at Dale and Hoa's house, since they are very generous people and are always opening their home to poets and poetry students. All is well, Dale thought, but after hours of partying, with just about everyone gone already, the "star" poet was seen outside, sitting on the grass, sobbing and lamenting about how unappreciated she was. It was like bad cartoon, Dale told me, and he was discreet enough to not reveal her name. Dale and I did agree that this kind of pathetic weirdness is not uncommon among poets. We even joked about turning out this way in a decade or two.

Meanwhile, the world revolves and turns to shit without paying the least attention to these sobbing poets.


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