Postmodern Collage Poetry

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

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Legitimate Dangers...

Recently there has been allot of wringing of hands and nashing of teeth regarding a new anthology Legitimate Dangers from Sarabande Books. I usually enjoy a good hockey check style review of an anthology but I have to say that I think the negative critique of this anthology is unwarranted.

Lets dispatch with the semantics; this is not an anthology of "innovative or experimental poetry" the fact that Mark Doty wrote the introduction and Ed Hirsch wrote a blurb places this anthology squarely in the middle.

I also think it is important to state that both Cate Marvin and Michael Dumanis are academics who went to Iowa whose work has appeared in mainstream journals. This anthology is what you would expect. It is like my Nonna always said if you add potatoes, egg, flour and ricotta cheese you will get Gnocchi and not Lamb Chops. Marvin won a prize judged by Robert Pinsky for God's sake and Dumanis' work appeared in Denver Quarterly but at least they are honest about their poetic family tree.

Having said this I think that Martin and Dumanis have missed some legitimately important poets who would have fit into their aesthetic Simone Muench, comes to mind as a major exclusion. Also, the inclusion of poets like Lisa Jarnot, DA Powell and Juliana Spahr makes me think about my days watching Sesame Street asking " some of these things are not like the others" . Plus I am sure that Lisa Jarnot has published more than three books. ?

But here we have the usual suspects they say in their marketing pieces they are publishing
ambitious fresh poets and here they are, Arielle Greenberg, Chicu Reddy, Andrew Zawacki these are very ambitious people who have worked very hard to create a niche for themselves in poetry and their energy is to be commended while so many poets complain about not getting press or recognition these poets work for it and their work gets a reading that many of us envy greenly...

In the end this is a well compiled anthology of mainstream poets most of whom are MFA graduates many with academic jobs. There are some poets here with whom I am not familiar and I was pleased to read their work, Sherwin Bitsui, Monica Youn, Kahled Mattawa I will read more of their work. I think that all of us who were not included should stop snapping and do anthologies of their own that is what I plan to do.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Poetry Magazine, and Mediocrity

On many blogs and list servs of late there has been much wringing of hands about the Poetry Foundation and their lack of care for our artform and the poetry community. I think however that this is a major issue but there is another issue that no one in poe-world wants to address and it may be the root and much of the mediocrity in poetry and that is the fact that poetry and its institutions are so myopic and narrow that the artform is slowly eating itself.

I just finished doing an anthology of Brazilian writing that will appear in Aufgabe magazine later this year. The thing that struck me about the poets that we included was the diversity of their lives and how rich their lives are in comparison to so many poets I know in the USA. Here they were Doctors, Professors, Bankers and Lawyers, A judge all writing important poetry and all living engaged lives as public intellectuals.

The fact that so many American poets are professional poets and the days of the poet as public intellectual are over here except for a few like Silliman, Fuller, Daniels, and alike who are people who have jobs in the general society but remain engaged in a poetic dialogue.

The issue in the USA in my opinion is comfort. Most Americans like comfort and safety. While it is unfair to say that most American poets have sold out what it is fair to say is that most American poets who dwell in Academia or Poetry Business are not going to challenge the dominant paradigm since this paradigm gives them a comfortable life.

Poetry in the USA is very suburban. It may be Cambridge/Madison/Berkeley suburban but it is suburban. This is the result of the fact that a huge majority of poets live in comfortable surroundings. When I compare poet's lives, my life, to others I am shocked at how pedestrian and how suburban we all are. Poets in China get executed, poets in the USA are ignored as irrelevant.

In the end it does not matter what the Poetry Foundation does since they are just a symptom of something bigger the death of the public intellectual in the United States. We are dwelling now in a fundamentally anti intellectual period and poets do not wish to engage with this world and so they have retreated to a desert island with their books and comfort.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Freedom is Not Negotiable, Freedom is not Sensitive

Recently throughout Europe and the Middle East there has been vigorous protests including violence regarding cartoons that depicted Mohammed in an unflattering way. Regardless of the feelings of 1.5 Billion Muslims, regardless of the feelings of
Imams, or Mullahs or Sheiks these newspapers have the right to publish whatever they want to, freedom is Not Negotiable and Freedom is not sensitive.

In the West we have been numbed by Political Correctness. Every system is to be treated equally or so the story goes, every philosophy and religion is to be respected.
While this may be an ideal many hold I hold another idea sacred, Freedom to say and do whatever you want without the fear of death or being silenced.

I write this as a Devout Catholic but I do not have the right to tell a newspaper or poet to not write things that offend me. My job is to respond in a civil and thinking way. My response is not to be violent and my response should be within the law.
Things that I find vile have been said and printed about Jesus, the Pope, Jews, Catholics, Protestants and more I may hate these things but our system protects those who would write such things

Freedom is Not Negotiable.

I am frankly tired of being told that we cannot offend people and speak the truth about a myriad of subjects be they slave labor in China, Islamic terrorism, the state of women's rights in Africa because we might 'offend' the cultures we are criticizing.

I realize that it is not popular but I believe that Western Secular Democracy is superior to these systems. People died from Bunker Hill to Normandy to the Berlin Wall for this ideal and I for one will not dishonor their memories. I believe that the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and the International Declaration of Human Rights are more sacred than anyone's feelings.

Freedom is not Sensitive.

In a free society we have a right to make fun of and disparage anyone we want.The political figure has the right to fight back no one has the right to silence these voices not matter how offended they are .

In the end Freedom and Justice under Law must prevail because without these we will slide slowly toward a morass of ignorance and equivocation. Freedom is the birthright of every human being even the freedom to criticize what is sacred to someone else.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


After watching the state of the Union the other night I kept thinking what is the point? I look at our current situation and I have to ask myself are people deluding themselves? We pretend to have higher goals and aspirations but in history the people who have called on this in humanity have ended up dead or rejected.

It seems that Realpolitik is the coin of the realm. Why do we delude ourselves that we are "noble" that we have "good motives"? I just keep thinking about the realities of evil and its banalities. The fact is that Turkey is happier having killed or expelled its Armenians and Greeks. Europe does not have many Jews because of Hitler and I bet allot of Europeans are still pleased with this. The US killed millions of native Americans and enslaved millions of Africans and we are richer for it and we have done nothing to remedy this injustice.

Today, as I sit here tapping out this blog on my Chinese made computer in my Mexican and Indian made clothes I am content--- and my decisions made for selfish reasons have resulted in pain for others.

I think this is the issue for me that my comfort causes so many pain. Gandhi first said this but I think that it is still true and that perhaps we should be honest. Slave labor in the developing world, enviromental destruction, genocide, all of this evils have resulted in prosperity for millions of others.

I remember as a small child going to Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. A fabulous church with a solid gold ceiling. I was told by the docent that the Gold from the ceiling was a "gift" of the people of Peru. About 25 years later as a lay missioner in Bolivia I stood in the large mine in Potosi, which was in the 16th century the second largest city in the world and the place where 1/4 of all the silver and 1/3 of all the gold in the world today had its origin and listened to the docent talk about the fact that 1 million native people's died mining metals here over 100 years and that most of the metals went to Europe. I thought it must have been from here that the 'gift' of that ceiling was sent to Rome.

I hate equivocation.