Monday, January 23, 2006

Barking in Iambic Pentameter

Is it just me or is the "poetry world" made up of mostly, ummmmm, largely egotistical people? I've been workshopping for about 4 years now on a fairly well established board. (Which shall remain nameless for now, but if you really wanted to figure it out, it wouldn't be too hard.) Over the years I've been both delighted and irritated - I've laughed, I've cried, I've gotten angry, I've gotten annoyed. I've also gotten some darn good advice, but lately I'm beginning to realize that I never take it anyhow. Add that to the fact that while the delight-factor has decreased and the irritation-quotion has risen dramatically and it's enough to convince me that it's virtually worthless for me to continue. I'll never be meek enough to fit in and I'll never learn to keep my mouth shut in the face of ignorant behaviour. I call it like I see it and I see it through an outsider's eyes.

Steve Schroeder recently acknowledged that he was no longer going to be workshopping his poetry in on-line workshops. He based his decision on general discontent coupled with a rash of plagiarism. I'm about to base my own decision on something much more subtle and hard to define - disgust.

This morning someone wrote requesting a thread dedicated to upcoming readings. Which all sounds fine and well, if you ask me. However (and there is always a "however, isn't there?) they also "assumed" that "many might want to post every open mic reading, but that would pose a space problem." Also well and good, altho I don't know that there are that many "open readings" anywhere that don't feature at least a few scheduled poets. I'm also not sure that any "poet" worth his or her salt would be advertising that they were possibly reading at an open mic, but I could be wrong there.....benefit of the doubt to the originator of the thread.

It's the "answer" to the posed problem which has me at the breaking point. The "answer" is this: "Maybe it could be limited to those __________ with new books/chapbooks out or of unquestionable established import." Arghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!! Who decides who's important? And why? Are only poets with a book or chapbook any good? Are only "established" poets worth reading or listening to? How "established" does one have to be before they are beyond question? And where in the hell do you go to get established in the first place? It's not like boxing where you get a notch on your belt each time you knock someone out.

I've learned lately, from the workshop where I "grew up" and from years on AOL and from blogging that there are ponds.....and ponds and ponds and ponds. There's even a few lakes, but mostly there are ponds. Small areas of poetry where everyone knows everyone else and either likes or dislikes that person's poetry. There's some pond-jumping, but for the most part people seem to stay loosely within their own comfort zone. (This is not to say that people don't publish poems or books in all sorts of venues and areas...they do....but regardless of how far they reach and how well they swim they are still mostly read and enjoyed by a certain group of people who have gotten to know them and respect them) Even those few poets who get critical acclaim and who get a large amount of publishing and attention still seem to gravitate back towards their selected peers....perhaps out of comfort, perhaps out of loyalty, perhaps just because they like themmost - as poets, as peers, and as people.

My point is - everyone starts some place. To deny a non-book writer or an "unestablished" writer the right to post a reading date is not only silly - it's cruel and it's designed for no other reason than to keep the poetry world clannish and closed. If everyone did that, how would anyone new ever become part of the elite "established"? I don't know the author of this thread personally, but I would really like to ask him/her where on earth he/she gave their first reading and how many people showed up. If you can't invite your own workshop buddies, who CAN you invite?

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there....and the dogs are all barking at one another - in iambic pentameter, no less.


Julie Carter said...

You've hit upon one of the reasons I've abandoned most boards. My arms aren't long enough to pat myself on the back that vigorously.

nolapoet said...


Woof woof!

Name your favorite three established poets! ;)


Lo said...

I think that would be "Bow WOW" not "WOOF woof". :)
That's my point, tho....who am "I" to name three established anythings?
Poetry is mainly, mostly, almost always subjective. The three poets I like best quite possibly would not be the three poets anyone else liked best. Nor would they necessarily be considered "established".
Besides, the only "established" poets I know for sure are long dead.
I think that's one of the keys to being considered an established poet. The "establishment" ie: the general public, aren't likely to recognize anyone still alive...they simply don't read and/or study live poets, they read dead poets.
Billy Collins, maybe, but I don't particularily LIKE Billy Collins. :)

C. Dale said...

I think poetry is like everything else. People gravitate, for the most part, to others they like/admire/feel comfortable with/etc. But you are very right. There are ponds and ponds and ponds.

Michelle e o said...

Yeah, and sometimes you just have to sit on your lily pad and laugh while the others croak...even if you're the only one that gets the joke.

Greg said...

It's such a small insular incestuous world as well. Like there's anything like a big dog (to mix metaphors quite nicely thank you) in that world. We're all toy poodles in the real one.

nolapoet said...

C'mon, Lo! Surely you have at least THREE poets who you would LOVE to hear read in person!!! Who they be?....


Lo said...

Nolapoet: -
Please pay particular attention to the part where I say "I've never even attended a reading"

Besides, you shouldn't bait a fish in his own pond.....chances are, he's not going to bite.


nolapoet said...

Not baiting. Asking sincerely. Who are your favorite three poets? Or, as I prefer it, who are three of your favorite poets (which allows for many more additions later)?

Here are three of mine:

Marilyn Hacker
Sam Gwynn
Marilyn Nelson


Alan Sullivan said...

Hello, Laura. These complaints are immemorial. Artists of every period, in every medium, have sought explanations for the abject failure of the world to recognize their brilliance.

Lo said...

Is anyone ever blinded by their own light?

Hi, ALan...good to "see" you. It's your fault, yanno...the blogging thing.

I liked reading yours so much that I decided I wanted to do one, too.

It's not half as nice or as polished as yours, and I'm not nearly so well-informed on political things as you, but I am having fun with it, anyhow. And the more I write the more I realise I don't I go looking for information and I end up learning things I need to know - which is always a plus.

Now if I could just write a damn poem...........