Thursday, July 18, 2013


the furies

"The plagiarism Furies, idle for a time as the more clandestine and irreproachable forms of literary borrowing and imitation continue from day to day, have been unloosed again. . . . This time, the context is the British literary world, and the accused is one of its leading lights, so the indictment has taken on a moderate, even decorous tone. Ian McEwan has been called to account for using some brief wording in his best-selling novel “Atonement” that some feel was drawn too directly from, rather than merely inspired by, a memoir by the romance novelist Lucilla Andrews."

The above quote comes from the NYTimes of Dec 3rd, 2006; a subsequent report stated that "heavyweights like Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Updike, Zadie Smith, Martin Amis and . . . Thomas Pynchon [have] arisen in defense of Mr. McEwen.  Most of the writers said that [they had] done the same thing themselves."

It's interesting when these "Furies" erupt in the world of prose, as they occasionally do: because it never or almost never happens in poetry.  There are certain poets who assimilate and appropriate biographies, and then present that culled material, sometimes with little or no alteration, as poems.  Yet no one ever confronts these poets, no one ever asks Frank Bidart where the plagiarism ends and the poetry begins.

Prose is important, prose writers are important, and so what they do is covered and reported on by the major media.  But poetry?  Nobody cares.  The New Yorker, which is what, supposedly the mag every literate USAer reads, pays infinitely more attention to pop music than to poetry.   Almost every music event in NYC appears in their listings, and almost none of the poetry events. . .  

Think of the money spent by governments/societies to support music, as opposed to poetry.  They support music because music supports them; it facilitates their tyrannies.  In the case of the USA, the Pentagon's budget as opposed to human services; the culture's stipends for music compared to what it piddles out to poets.

Scientists who tolerate their enemy, religion, have a death-wish; poets who don't attack the hegemony of music, who don't protest against its disproportionate and unwarranted dominance of the cultural sphere, are similarly defeatist.  The assets available for the arts are limited, and music gobbles up more resources than it deserves.  Poets who support this, and who make excuses for the sovereignty of music over poetry, are suicidal traitors.  Just as scientists like Richard Dawkins and others have begun to actively oppose and combat the evil of religion, so poets must work against the dictatorship of music, and must use every means to denounce and denigrate it.

The New Yorker manages to review prose books every week; why can't they review at least one poetry book per week?  If poets weren't such lickspittles and wimps they would boycott and refuse to submit their work to The New Yorker until it paid regular attention to poetry.  And boycott every other semi-literary journal, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, Bookforum, the TLS, the LRB etcetera, until they start giving regular attention to verse.  Hell, the New York Review of Books reviews more music than it does poetry, and more books about music than books about poetry.  Why do poets put up with such neglect and disregard?  Why don't they fight back?

The disparity between the funding for music and the funding for poetry is insane.  Poetry is the most important art.  Ergo, poetry should receive more funding than any other art.  More attention should be paid to poetry than any other art.   For every printpage and webpage devoted to music, a dozen should be allotted to poetry.  For every dollar that goes to music, poetry should collect a hundred, a thousand!

In reality, of course, poetry is the most abject, the lowest of the arts.  The most ignored, the least recognized and honored, the least rewarded.  Count the millionaire novelists around the globe, the millionaire painters and scriptwriters, the multimillionaires of music . . . the wealth that accumulates around all the arts but poetry.  And ask yourself, poet, what you have in common with them.  They hate you, you know it: they despise you.  They have nothing but contempt for you.  All the other arts look down with disgust at poetry.  When will you turn that contempt back at them?  When will you scorn them, and deny them the commendation they refuse you.  (Oh yes, they all offer lipservice specious praise to poetry, smirking behind their hands at the hypocrisy of the gesture that costs them nothing.)  Even poets (you know this too) hate poetry, and disdain poets.  How can we not hate ourselves and hate each other; we're poets, we're slaves: Genet said it best, in The Maids: "When slaves love each other, it's not love they feel."  Poetry is the slave of the arts, and poets are slaves to the prosewriter and the painter, and even more to the molochs of music.  What kind of slave reveres and worships its oppressors?  The masochist kind portrayed by Genet: the poet kind.

But what's the real plagiarism story here, the one that won't be covered by the Times or any other organ of the Masters?  Plagiarism: theft.  In the realm of the arts, who are the ones most stolen from? who are the ones robbed everyday of the prestige and recognition and respect they deserve?  Whose true-earned recompense is snatched away by fictionwriters and painters and musicmullahs?  And more than that, more criminal than that, whose ideas and concepts are historically and always and still today are the most plagiarized?  Daily, hourly, poet-slaves produce goods which are expropriated and exploited by the other arts.  That's the ongoing plagiarism scandal hushed-up and suppressed by every media. No famous novelist or filmmaker or rockstar or painter is going to do an Op-ed about that inequity, or band together (like those "heavyweights" mentioned in the Times article quoted above) to write letters of protest against that iniquity.  These are the crooks who steal the work of poets, and they aren't going to confess or atone or make reparations.  They're going to keep on plagiarizing poets every chance they get, yesterday today and tomorrow.  (Have prosewriters ever been capable of original thought; haven't they always stolen all their ideas from poets.)

But hey, don't let me stop you, poets.  Go on, go ahead and kiss-ass praise the millionaire Pynchon, the millionaire Jasper Johns, praise all the success-practitioners of the Master arts, the crumbs from their tables may fill you yet.  It's your duty as slaves to curry favor with those above you, to flatter and obsequiate your betters. And praise most those writers who began as poets but abandoned poetry, who betrayed poetry for the chance to move up the foodchain of the arts, after all if you could hum a tune you too might get rich like Leonard Cohen and fuck moviestars; you'd do it if you could, wouldn't you.  Of course you would.  Because, let's face it, who would want to be a poet when they could be a novelist or a songwriter or a screenwriter or a rockstar or a Cindy Sherman or a what's his name, that Brit artist who cuts sharks in half,—who would want to remain a poet, the lowest puke on the cultural totempole?  Only a fool, a masochist, a scumbag, who can't weasel their way into any of the real arts, who has to sink to the bottom of the bard-barrel, the pegasus-dregs.  Poetry, the most ignored, the least compensated of the arts. . . but you already know this; why am I wasting my time telling you what you already know.



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