(a post from two years ago:)
Someone who runs a little poetry reading series here in Boston wants me to do one in their schedule before I leave the area next year . . .
Vanity (as always) tempts, but I can't do it.
My health is not up to it, first and firstmost. That in itself is sufficient reason to refuse,—
but also, as I've mentioned in earlier posts here, back when I was younger and did do readings I was by all accounts pretty bad at it.
And to say "I did readings" is not quite accurate, considering that in my three decades of residence here in the Boston area, I was almost never invited to give them . . .
which is not surprising, really, taking into account how terrible I was at doing them—
and in view of how the few readings I did give were so poorly attended—
it's no wonder I was asked to do them so infrequently . . .
The overseers of such venues knew how small a crowd my limited (meaning "bad") reputation as a poet would bring in. And they were right, of course.
In those thirty years there were certainly plenty of places where I could have been invited to read, most of the many colleges and universities in or around the Boston area had reading series, and there were always non-affiliated independent ones ongoing . . .
But lately I've been wondering whether my pathetically meager reading career might relate to the fact that the State Arts Council had at some point early on in my thirty years here pronounced me persona non grata . . .
and ergo the administrators of all those poetry-reading series knew that it would be *illegal* to recognize me as a poet, to invite me to read—
this is a metaphor, but poets live and die by metaphor, and I've died dozens at the hands of this one, so please stay with me while I tease it out a bit—
Laws are created not solely by legislation, but also by precedence and custom:
so if the State of Massachusetts, through its Arts Agency, has repeatedly and consistently ruled that my poetry has no merit and is not worthy of—
I applied I can't remember how many times, how many years for one of the poetry grants they gave over the course of those three decades to hundreds of other Massachusetts poets—
if the State has determined that I am a nonpoet, if they have rendered that judgement again and again and again, then,
does that not constitute a statutory mandate, does that not have the authority of an ordinance,—
does that not establish a Law, a commonlaw or corpus juris,—
does that not in jurisprudence enact an Edict that finds "Knott is not a poet"—
has not the State ratified, by precedence and custom, and decreed just such an embargo—
and if the State of Massachusetts has legally ordained by fiat that I am not a poet, then, ergo,
it would be illegal, wouldn't it, for citizens of Massachusetts to regard me as a poet?—
No wonder all those folks never invited me to participate in their reading series, when they knew that by doing so, they'd be breaking the law!
(It's obviously why the editors of here-in-state magazines always rejected the poems I send them—)
Yes, the metaphor sayeth: it is illegal for Massachusetts residents to read my poetry, or ask me to give poetry readings, or to consider me a poet in any way.
Hopefully whatever state I move to next year won't enact similar prohibitions.
I guess I'm lucky that Massachusetts didn't actually make it a criminal offense for me to be a poet, and sanction its police agencies to arrest me each time I tried to write a poem.
I guess it's lucky I'm not on Death Row by now.
My poetry career's on Death Row, but I'm not quite there yet. Won't be long, though.