Our days of protest are far from over.
What steps to stanch the hemorrhaging?
A fine irony, the assigned reading of Czeslaw Milosz’s “Ars Poetica?” in the writing program I attended, a program insisting that a fresh poem be delivered with about the same regularity as a bowel movement. Final stanza:
What I’m saying here is not, I agree, poetry,
as poems should be written rarely and reluctantly,
under unbearable duress and only with the hope
that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.
Serious poetry—writing that requires reading—unlikely comes after a day spent at the amusement park. Definitely not ten minutes before class or workshop. Writing programs may advertise, as one of their ostensible aims, improvement. But the programs are tethered, symbiotically, to publication—and the little magazines with their attendant staff display faint or zero interest in improving a poem. (Count how many rejections contain the least bit of advice.) “Our editorial decisions have more to do with our own tastes and preferences than the quality of your submission….” One vote for sweet, one vote for salty. Loudest wins.
A distressing sign of our times…ignorance and inability (i.e., gross incompetence) presented so casually. It’s nothing to boast about—lacking adequate means to determine the quality of a poem, story, essay, song, painting, photograph, film.
“Mediocre people support mediocre people, and they support mediocre objects.”
“Poems that demand—and reward—rereading are rare, almost extinct.”