Sunday, September 26, 2010

47 million

for an egregious example of what I'm talking about in the previous post,

see page 13 of the Sunday Opinion section in today's NYTimes,

the Metropolitan Opera currently spending 16 million on a new production of Wagner's Ring,

while last year the Los Angeles Opera wasted 31 million on a similar fling—

Where are the poets protesting this misallocation of arts funding?

Where are the poets picketing these presentations,

lying down inside the opera houses refusing to move and forcing the police to drag them up the aisles with nightsticks and tasers,

where are the poets refusing to accept this injustice—

poetry is the least funded art, every poet knows: but

when are the poets going to rise up and battle against this inequity?

47 million: 470 poets could have been given a hundred thousand dollars apiece

to support their work,—

470 poets should have been granted this money,

but poets will never get the share of arts funding they rightfully deserve unless

they stand up and fight for it!

a fable:

The State (society, the institutional powers that be, etc) has budgeted 20 beans for the Arts—

of course 20 beans are too little, the State should allocate more beans, everybody knows, everybody bleats and tirades

that 20 beans are not enough funding for the Arts, etc., etc.,

the State should give them more, the State should blah blah blah—

the Artists endlessly complain they're being shortchanged in the State's dispersal of resources—

and they're right, of course: but so what?

The Artists can bang their heads against the State's palace doors all they like,

but 20 beans is it.

And eventually inevitably those 20 beans are distributed to the Arts:

Music gets 8 beans,

Film gets 4,

Painting/Visual gets 3,

Theater gets 3,

Prose gets 2,

Poetry gets—wait, aren't there any left? Did you count them right?


a familiar fable

If you were the member of a tribe that was constantly attacked by other tribes,

if for centuries those clans had continually robbed your crops and stole the fruit of your labors,

wouldn't you consider those groups your enemies?

And what if your tribe and those same hostile tribes were under the rule of a larger entity,

a body politic, a realm, that favored those rival tribes, that in the distribution of its wealth and benefits

had always unfairly granted those enemy tribes more resources than it gave to you—

If you were a member of this outcast caste, this slave class,

might you not resent and even rise up in rebellion against the system that despised and exploited you—

You probably would,

unless of course you were a Poet,

in which case you'd be kneeling down and kissing the ass of those enemy tribes

of Music, Painting, Film, etc.,

and prostrating yourself at the feet of your most rapacious enemy, the Prosewriter tribe,

and your whole tribe, every Poet would be groveling alongside you—

Nor would you and your fellow helots mass your forces in united protest against the State that supported and awarded its endowments

to those foe tribes of Musicmakers, Painters, Filmistes, Prosewriters, et al,

those adversary tribes who have eternally plundered and plagiarized your achievements, the produce of your hands,

who have commandeered, hijacked the goods your serfdom has created—

those rival tribes, whose punishment for the evil piracy of your work

has been what?

Not punishment, but prize: to garner the major share of any and whatever Arts funding

the greater society meagerly dispenses in its budgetary decisions.


But of course if you were a member of this tribe, it wouldn't be heredity; fate would not have cursed your birth into this family of Untouchables:

no, you would have joined it yourself, free will, you chose to enter this pariah pack

and suffer its abject, its humiliating impoverishments,

to sacrifice your life in masochistic menial fealty

and obsequious servitude, in endless subjection

to those superior vicious tribes who fang the food from your mouth, who loot your livelihood and ransack your soul,—

and oh yes, you'll crawl and humbly bless the god that rewards those enemies.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


“Anyway (poetry) is not the most important thing in life, is it? Frankly, I'd much rather lie in a hot bath sucking boiled sweets and reading Agatha Christie, which is just exactly what I intend to do as soon as I get home.” —Dylan Thomas


Sunday, September 5, 2010

repost from a couple years ago——

One of Wallace Stevens's many masterpieces, "The Man on the Dump," may reveal something of what it is that great poets do, or can do.

They forage, scavenge on every debris/each drop of detritus and forge it charge it reborn—

Part of that garbage, that scum of scrap they use is us—

we lesser poets.

Great poets can take other poets' failures and transform them into successes.

A great poet like James Tate can take the failed verse of dub poets and transform them into his masterful poems.

This is hyperbole perhaps, but there might be some truth to it.

This capability may be one of the many that separate great poets like Tate from flub poets like me.

Because, I think, and this is the thought that woke me up in distraction this morning,

the sad meager truth is that I can use nothing from other poets' failures. I do not have that capability—

No: I can only take other poets' successes and turn them into my failures.

The successful poet is the Man on the Dump,

the failed poet is the one lounging around in the King's Treasury.

Like all lesser poets I am doomed to waste my life taking the successful works of great poets and transforming them into my failed poems.

In fact I the lesser poet may have no source material, no resource but them, their verse.

I have nothing else to work with but their accomplishments.

Whereas they, the great poets, have for their wield not only the heap achievement of their fellow greats, but

(and this is the crucial difference between them and us)

they can also utilize the wasteproduct trash efforts of all us failed poets.

(Could it be a formulaic fate's-cross exchange: we failed poets have nothing to work with but the triumph-tomes of successful poets, while they, the great ones, have nothing to work with but our ruined rhymes—? No, too neat.)

Everything's piled on their scarred and stained workbench.

But on our escritoires only the heavy volumes of the Majors are lined up

and held up precariously

by the trembling bookends of our arms, our forearms—

which leaves our hands, our hands flapping around quite useless.