Monday, February 07, 2005

Mike writes to clarify that he's got nothing against close readings of the Pisan Cantos or even against academic work as such—just that he thinks academic work is bad work for poets, "because it focuses so much energy away from the world that poets ought to
share with their readers (both in their lives and in their poems)." (Hope you don't mind being quoted there, Mike.) Well, I'd have to agree it's bad for some poets, or at least bad for their colleagues and students: the presence of poets in academia with no interest in teaching or intellectual life is indeed a serious problem, though partly a generational one. Certainly not all poets are or even should be intellectuals, though I admit a strong bias toward intellectually engaging poetry (aka wit). But I'm not sure the estrangement between what passes for American intellectual culture (which is a sad and diminished thing compared with the intellectual culture of countries like France or Argentina) and that slippery and disputable entity "the common reader" can or should be overcome by poets descending en masse from the academy and into the streets, especially since "the streets" barely exist any more in any meaningful sense in our suburban society. Insofar as I deplore the general trend of consumer culture and imperial paranoia in the so-called mainstream, I would be very slow to sacrifice the difference between that mainstream and the ever-shrinking margin that remains for independent thought—even and especially if that difference is founded on ideas the mainstream has smugly proclaimed to be "objectively" discredited.

Mike can advance his arguments against what I can't help of but think of as the more interesting approaches to writing and thought, and I'll be there to argue back. But at the end of the day we're not going to get past the fact that the poetry he endorses bores me silly, and the poetry I endorse offends his notion of putting the (preconceived, pre-imagined) reader first. It might be more interesting to see if we can discover any common ground.

No comments:

Popular Posts