Friday, September 19, 2008

I have been asked more than once this week why I do my link lists the way I do – once or twice per week, rosters of links that for the most part come from recent news stories, blog notes that are likewise recent (and often more thoughtful & well-researched as anything “in the media”), plus resources that are either new to the web or at least new to me. There are usually around 100 links and there have been up to around 160 during an especially busy time. Most directly relate to poetry, but close readers will note that I also include news of the publishing industry, in terms of the publishers, the technology and the distribution network (both bookstores & libraries) and likewise news concerning language itself. Then there are usually some links to the larger arts world, to contemporary philosophy & the human sciences, and – rarely – to politics.

In my links on poetry & poetics per se, you’re as apt to read a blog note concerning a recent chapbook by somebody you (and maybe I also) never heard of as an interview with Richard Wilbur, an online newspaper article concerning a poet-politician from the South Asian subcontinent or Africa as a lengthy discourse on the nature of conceptual poetics. There’s a reason – or at least a rationale – to all this.

What I want to provide, first of all, is context. With over 10,000 publishing poets in the English language, there is frankly a lot going on. A lot is going on elsewhere as well. Whether it’s cowboy poetry in Elko, Nevada, the National Slam in Madison, a conference in Nairobi (or Vancouver), Andrew Motion’s whining that being Laureate stopped him from writing (as good an argument for that post as I’ve heard, frankly), or somebody’s spirited attack on conceptual poetry, slow poetry, flarf, whatever – it’s all poetry. Or at least poetry related.

Nobody can read 10,000 poets & keep them even remotely straight in their head, or least nobody short of a Rain Man-type savant. But certainly it makes some sense to at least have some idea what’s going elsewhere, whether elsewhere is the wildly popular reality-TV competitions Prince of Poets and Millions Poets in the Middle East, or the latest prize awarded to a School of Quietude poet in the Middle West.

So this doesn’t mean some of my links won’t be appalling – tho we might not concur on exactly which parts. It does mean that we ignore those aspects of poetry and its “scene” we choose to shunt aside at our own peril – the risk being that, in our own selected ignorance, we manage to make ourselves irrelevant. We could each pretend to be above it all, but frankly one Auggie Kleinzahler is already one too many.

One thing that the more institutional approaches to the dissemination of news about poetry is that, by their very institutional nature, they tend to be more wedded to a single view, that of the School of Q. Even a wannabe site like Poetry Daily demonstrates this seven times a week – they cover the spectrum from A to B as tho C to Z just didn’t exist. And they never give voice to  their partisan perspective, but rather act as tho it were the water & their readers so many fish. To get your news from their news listing is just to remain ignorant.

Jilly Dybka’s Poetry Hut does a much better job, because it’s much more eclectic, but it is restricted by offering far too little of what is out there.

So I want you to know that the folks in Lowell are celebrating the Beats, to know that Evie Shockley has a good reading of Ed Roberson’s work, to read an interview with Adonis, to read Dragnet haiku or take note of the latest collection of Jack Gilbert imitations by Linda Gregg, not to mention seeing the governor of New Jersey standing by a cut-out of William Carlos Williams. It’s all part of the gumbo as Ishmael Reed might put it. And the richer the gumbo the better.