Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Guilt this morning for deciding not to get on a bus or into the car and drive snowy roads to NYC for the antiwar rally there Saturday, especially after reading Silliman's Blog entry for today. Instead tomorrow night I'm driving up to Cortland, New York for a Poetry for Peace reading—an event scheduled before the Laura Bush brou-ha-ha but one that very much will take its spirit from the events that have been scheduled around the fallout from the First Lady's simply amazing declaration that "it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum." Think globally, act locally, right? Still sounds a bit weaselly to me, but I do believe that, sadly, opportunities to protest the war-in-progress (all talk of a surgical strike notwithstanding) will be all too plentiful in the months to come.

Ron Silliman's focus on Sam Hamill's conservative aesthetics and their tendency to reify and affirm the present order makes sense to me, but I have to say that the present moment makes me proud to share the name poet with Mr. Hamill and even our much-maligned (by me) Poet Laureate. Poets are having an impact in their opposition to a criminal regime (ours) and giving the lie to the claims of those (often self-hating poets themselves) who wave the banner of "Poetry makes nothing happen" and think that it's inappropriate (or simply "adolescent and irresponsible" as well as, naturally, "anti-American"—see this sneering article in The Weekly Standard for the rest of J. Bottum's dream) for poetry and politics to mix—any politics not in favor of the status quo, that is. Yes, of course most of the antiwar poetry being written is reactionary in its aesthetics or just plain bad, but so is most poetry most of the time. But what matters is that poets, who do have an audience—it's a small audience, but it's bigger than that enjoyed by non-artists—are allowing their politics and their everyday lives—that is, their lives in poetry— to blend. It sets a magnificent example for everyone who encounters that kind of raised consciousness to do the same.

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