Postmodern Collage Poetry

A blog about writing collage poetry, post modern poetry, multi lingual poetry

Monday, January 26, 2004

Poetry and Bowling and Public Intellectuals

Last week I met with my group of favorite local poets, Kerri Sonnenberg, Mark Tardi, Jesse Seldis, Chuck Stebelton et at one of Chicago's finest literary venues, Miami Bowl at Archer and Pulaski on Chicago's South West Side. The evening was filled with a discussion about Charles Bernstein's essay Pound and the Poetry of Today. Our discussion was fruitful but also the irony of talking about one of the more elitist writers in a Southwest Side bowling alley was fodder for good reflection on my part about the place of the poet in our society.

Then over the weekend Ron Silliman said something that was profound-- Charles Olson-- was a public intellectual. I think that this is the issue with poetry today we do not have enough public intellectuals. Whitman, Pound, Olson, Williams, Stevens, even Frost (whom I hate), Neruda, and many others were not academics they were public intellectuals in dialogue with the artistic world and also with the general world.

Poets of high intellect need to be in this dialogue and need to legitimatize our artform by being part of a dialogue that today is closed to them. This is perhaps the key to bringing poetry out of the shadows --than say dumbing it down-- or Slamming it up-- .

What I think needs to happen is that fine institutions like the Ivies and many others need to realize that there are many poets who are public intellectuals but not academics and they should be engaged with productively.

This engagement is important. a poet like Stevens, or Williams or even Olson would not have enough oxygen in our current environment since much of the potential for publications and dialogue are not open to fine poets who are not academics.

An example of this here is Chicago is the fact that some universities have readings as 530 pm on Tuesday afternoons thus excluding anyone who works for a living and excluding anyone who lives more than a few blocks from campus. I believe strongly that there are great poets who are not part of the dialogue and that this isolation is a problem for the artform.

I do understand that most academic/poets have a vested interest in retaining the status quo. Their livelyhood depends on this because if grants, fellowships and residencies went to poets who are not academics it would cause chaos at major schools-- but chaos might be good for poetry.