Thursday, June 23, 2005


CATEGORY: Reading and Writing
Photograph by "Codfisch" via flickr
What does much of contemporary poetry have to do with the fish pictured above?

1. It's dead.
2. It doesn't smell all that good.
3. (And most important) the soul left the body long ago.

First of all, let me make one thing clear: I'm not saying I have all the answers--or that my poetry is any better than anything else out there. As a poet living in the year 2005, I'm eating at the same cafeteria as everyone else. What I am saying is that I haven't been feeling all that nourished by a lot of the stuff that's being served up.

All right, maybe I'm exaggerating; maybe I'm out to lunch (always a possibility.) Maybe contemporary poetry is alive and well, thank you very much. The evidence, however, says otherwise. Exhibit A: ain't nobody reading it. Nobody, that is, except card holding members of the Poet's Club.

Now I'm sure that having a little elite club is a lot of fun. Making rules, screening members, telling little insider jokes and stories that no one else gets--it's gotta be a real hoot. But there's one problem: that kind of shit is anathema to poetry. Absolutely kills it, and extracts the soul with surgical efficiency.

And yet I believe the desire, the hunger, the need for poetry is as strong as ever. It's just that the potential audience has been fed so many dead fish, they've stopped showing up for dinner. Give them a poem by Mary Oliver or Czeslaw Milosz, something that lifts them up, spins them around, and drops them on the ground feeling a little more enriched than they were before they entered the poetry cafeteria. My guess is that they'll be lined up with trays in hand, looking for more.

So what's the problem with (a lot of) contemporary poetry?

1. The battlefield is thick with snobs, exclusive members of the Dead Fish Club to which the uninvited need not apply. And basically, you can't put poetry and snobbery in the same room without having a fight break out. Or put more simply:

Poetry expands.
Snobbery contracts.

Make a choice.

2. Now, I've got nothing against making friends; likeminded poets have always done that. But for my money (which as any one who'se seen the balance in my checkbook lately can tell you, ain't much) these folks are way too cliquish. They're s busy slapping the right backs, stroking the right egos, and giving each other prizes they've forgotten what it's all about. In other words:

Cliques exclude.
Poetry's got the door wide open.

Make a choice.

2. A lot of these poet people are way too cool for their own good. Or put into another equation:
Poetry is white hot.
Dead fish are as cool as it gets.

Make a choice.

3. Great poetry arises from great souls. I have no equation for that, but if anyone finds one, please let me know.


You know what? I think there is. And that hope is the web. It's democratic, it's white hot, it's a worldwide explosive convergence of souls.


Tammy said...

Cute way of putting that. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.

. said...

i agree with every word.

jose luis

Patry Francis said...

Thanks for the visit, curly trouble.

And jose luis, it's nice to know there are two of us.

j_jr333 said...

as a fellow poet lost in the bright foggyness of this world, your words have given me fuel to motivate this gasless muel.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^