Friday, January 8, 2010

Yay for Incestuous Poetry

This from Tim Green's blog (one of the editors of the lit magazine Rattle) regarding the small circular world of poetry:

This is the disconnect. Virtually all readers of poetry are writers of poetry themselves. Poetry isn’t a passive interest, it’s an active passion. Rattle keeps a large database of everyone we’ve ever had contact with. There are tens of thousands of entries in the database, and 80% of them also have the label “rejected.” We have 3,000 subscribers, and almost every one of them has submitted their work at one time or another. When I find a reader of poetry — any poetry, not just Rattle – who doesn’t try to write it themselves, I want to run up and shake their hand, then reach in and examine their psyche. It’s a rare species.

Well then, thank goodness for writing workshops, craft classes, MFA programs…without them how would we churn out more writers (aka readers) of poetry? I am weary of the endless moaning about the volume of bad poetry being written by the thousands of poet-wanna-bes that wend their way through the plethora of such programs. As though the sheer volume of poetry being written, submitted, published, read is indicative of some loss of quality. And anyway, so what? Bring ‘em on. Writing bad poetry is so much more preferable than no poetry at all. And, if out of the pile of coal, a few diamonds are pressed, well, how wonderful. Based on historical precedent, we probably won’t know the good from the bad from the really ugly for a long time.

I’ll also add that writing poetry makes, I think, one a better reader, which, I think, makes one a better writer. So I want till the end of that really long time, more people writing poetry, reading poetry, submitting poetry, posting poetry on their blogs, starting poetry magazines in their living rooms. Perhaps we’ll all end up just sending it to each other, but at least the circle feels like it’s getting a bit larger.

However, in the defense of poetry readers, I do know a few that actually enjoy poetry without writing it. All of them though have other very creative outlets—they paint, photograph, write in other genres, build intricate multi-level play houses for their dog,…Granted, there aren’t a lot of them, but perhaps being creative lends itself to appreciation of any of the arts. Certainly, I’ve yet to meet a Wall Street banker (and I know a lot of them) that knows Yeats from Keats. Then again, maybe those so-called rare species do write poetry, they just don’t tell.


  1. At the last reading I went to in NYC, the poet reading asked all those who write poetry to raise their hands. As close to 100% as I could count! Oh well. It WAS a packed house.

  2. To be surrounded by so many poets sounds lovely.