No More Poetry Industrial Complex, Just an Earthenware Jug

How long before the shadow (Jungian) lays down its ophthalmic devices? How long before envy sleeps in the tall grass under the Asian maple with its thirty goddess branches?

At 60 I’m tired of covetousness. Sweet Jesus, I’m more than tired, I’m sick of it.

 

Poetry in America is now a business. It’s tempting to call it a minor business but this reassuring distinction is hard to prove as colleges and universities spend plenty on creative writing and the dollars are not transparent.

Alongside the business model of poetry comes the Althusserian battle for provenance. “In the battle that is philosophy all the techniques of war, including looting and camouflage, are permissible.” (See: Althusser, Louis, Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists & Other Essays)

Althusser drank a cocktail squeezed from the juices of Marx and Machiavelli. Imagine drinking goats milk and iodine. But polemicists occasionally tell the truth. Nowadays poetry is provenance.

You may argue it was always so, picturing a moist Lord Smallnut, his gouty wife, crumbs down his ascot, paying off Dryden but in those days “po-biz” was a cottage industry. Nowadays the buildings are tall, the window glass is essentially opaque.

Once, in Chicago at the national conference of the AWP (Associated Writing Programs) I tripped over an upturned carpet and fell down. My guide dog stood beside me, worried. As God is my witness, several poets walked half around, half over me, eager to get to the good seats.

That, as they say, was a defining moment.

“Without claiming to be exhaustive, I maintain that every philosophy reproduces within itself, in one way or another, the conflict in which it finds itself compromised and caught up in the outside world.” (Althusser)

Kenneth Rexroth: “Bohemia is a commune in which the Revolution is over and everyone is a member of the aristocracy.”

Pass me the sweet earthenware jug,

Made of the earth that bore me,

The earth that someday I shall bear.

—Kenneth Rexroth