poMotion poetry

A new world— one that doesn’t need National Poetry Month

with 7 comments

Is poetry dead in America? No, probably not. But you wouldn’t know that from the overhyped, mass produced public relations campaigns coming from places like the Poetry Foundation, and Poets.org— who rev their engine’s every April in hopes of offering an appeal for American poets who for most part have little to no effect on American society.

In 2008, esteemed poet and writer, Ange Mlinko wrote an excellent insiders look at what is behind National Poetry Month in the Nation.

In the article Mlinko writes, “De rigueur jokes about T.S. Eliot’s “cruelest month” notwithstanding, the National Poetry Month FAQ web page explains why April was chosen for the honor: “February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, so April seemed a logical choice.” Let’s get this straight: logically, this would mean that poets are an oppressed group on a par with groups who have overcome the legal status of chattel. Needless to say, the ability of poets to interrogate their own earnest metaphors seems to have plunged in tandem with their prestige.

If, that is, one assumes that poetry’s prestige has plunged, because otherwise it wouldn’t need a national awareness campaign. But how does one square this lost prestige, this alarum, with the surge of new books every year? Or all the readings, podcasts, MFA graduates? A major publishing house’s poetry list used to function as a highbrow loss leader; but now that books are just another loss leader for big-box retail outlets, poetry–a loss leader of a loss leader–counterintuitively becomes the rallying point of a grassroots movement. Dozens if not hundreds of small presses and websites have sprung up in recent years…”

She goes on, “So it almost makes sense–perversely–that in a time of prolific poetic production, the Academy invented a National Poetry Month using the language of victimhood. It gets the money flowing, shoring up what must be perforce a top-down infrastructure. National Poetry Month has a significant fundraising component to it. The Academy’s annual benefit at Lincoln Center features celebrities (Meryl Streep, Katie Couric, Candace Bushnell) reading their favorite chestnuts, paying homage to the idea that there’s something genuine beyond all this fiddle. The money from the 2006 gala, says the Academy’s website, “allowed us to donate one book of poetry to every middle-school classroom and library in New York City, plus thousands more to schools and libraries in New Orleans and other cities across the country.” What ogre would argue with that? And if the marketing juggernaut forces editors to run an extra poetry review or two–stealing precious column inches from more lucrative advertisers in the flash-in-the-pan book industry–what’s the harm? Maybe one new reader will mean one less busy cubicle in the Freedom Tower.”

So basically, in common folk terms, she is saying that an entire class of individuals, mostly those with access to higher education, fame, or economic resources is driving what the modern day poetry movement looks like in America. I’m with the kids, boring.

Proceeds made off of the movement in the form of suit and tie gala’s, public campaigns and subscriptions to poetry websites are then donated to poor folk as a way of giving back to the community. Unfortunately for those on the top, it’s an old game in a new world. Like the newspaper and publishing industries that are tittering and on the verge of collapse, what’s left of a small and insignificant poetry industry, may fall right along with it.

The masses may get glimpses of the word “poetry” through the National Poetry Month’s well-crafted PR campaigns delivered through newspaper op-eds, fancy pay-to-play websites, sponsorships and advertisements in their own industry driven magazines, but there’s no real depth there to move something forward that is innovative. While the PR campaign is great for teachers, and students who have something to build curriculum around for the month of April, other than that, I don’t see much use in National Poetry Month.

In a world where 15-minutes of recognition for an author, or artist has morphed into 10-second sound bites on Glitter and BaceFook— we’ve got all we need to be successful, and insignificant as published poets.

Having free websites like WordPress as a platform is a great marriage for both the author and the reader. A couple of examples are Read Between the Minds and our own blog,  PoMotion .

Self-published authors can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in self-publishing costs, the consumer can save the $10, or $20 he or she would spend on a book, and we can all save a tree. Plus, with other free sites like BaceFook and Glitter, we can build our own public relations campaigns, and it’s free and accessible to the people. And, there’s a connection through open dialogue with a broader audience on-line that you just aren’t going to find at the gala. It’s right outside your door.

All you have to do is snap a photo, record a rhyme or type up those beautiful and tragic words in your head, then post it for the world to see.  It’s magic. It’s poetry.

Posted by Israel Bayer

Written by lickmypoetry

April 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm

7 Responses

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  1. dream of love for poetry month

    She is there, in my room, waiting. Silent as I close the door, turn out the light, turn out the world.
    I feel her presence behind, reaching to touch my clavicle, soothe vagal impulse to turn. I feel her hand, supple, strong, heating through in contact, healing in that sacred touch fortified with love.
    We kiss, we melt, we swirl like cotton candy, sweet, sticky, surreal. We touch into solidity to feel, each exquisite synapse response a remembrance of permeability. We taste. There are no words.

    I know I said (I prayed):

    To be adored beyond embarrassment
    To be she who can do no wrong, because beloved
    To be gifted accurate reflective critique
    as superlative reviews, with just a tweak suggested

    To fall securely into open arms and heart
    expecting only me
    Each blessed day to start
    gazing into shining eyes that see so deeply,
    so wisely, my precious wondrous being
    I have never had from lovers,
    brothers, Mom or Dad
    what I have taught myself severely
    I can never have
    Too bad. So sad. Can’t let fantasy
    keep me from my daily dance with debt.
    Dreaming freely receivng
    never to be met.

    We meet secretly, in places that can’t be mapped or tethered. She embraces me in bursts of rapid movement, seductively slowed from motion to subtle traces of desire.
    I am emotively charged ecstasy, pulsing electrically beyond space/time. She is imaginal fluid gently shaping eternity. We are ouroboros, ancient fantasy, modern physics.
    This is the charm I need to cast the spell, to open the fortress, to open my eyes adoring sensation. I become energy as she feeds me the ambrosia of her essence. I become beloved.



    April 3, 2010 at 9:47 pm

  2. Very good. I totally agree. No More bullshit people in bullshit tweed jackets talking at bullshit students who bullshit with each other about the bullshit in their bullshit notebooks while reading bullshit dead white bullshit artists.

    End the bullshit,
    Save the poetry!


    April 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm

  3. Dude, I like tweed (w/paint drenched Adidas shorts of course). And I have a notebook filled w/BS, in fact, I think I have like 12.

    – Israel Bayer


    April 5, 2010 at 8:56 pm

  4. […] Huffington Post. One column that jumped out at me was, “Should poetry critics go negative?” (I already have.) And while I agree with most of his analysis, he also works for Poetry Foundation. It made me […]

  5. Libramoon got caught up in the spam. Maybe she is. Maybe not. Love your poem…

    – Israel Bayer


    April 6, 2010 at 10:22 pm

  6. […] folks tire of token gestures of acknowledgment of Poetry.  National Poetry month comes around each year like […]

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