Why Poets Can’t Have Nice Things

Cover of Planet of the Blind....man and dog....

I must say I’ve been distressed beyond measure by the rebarbative snootiness of some poets on social media who’ve pronounced Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem lacking in the requisite qualities to be real poetry. Of course this is nothing new–the history of literature overflows with canonical disdain–Ovid didn’t like Sappho; Emerson aside almost everyone despised Whitman. The troll army employs the same time honored disapproval used against Allen Ginsberg: Gorman’s poem is simply prose, too stagey, lacking in literary seriousness. Reading this claptrap I’ve come to the conclusion this is why poets can’t have nice things.

I loved her poem and was thrilled by her rhapsodic incantatory weaving of darkness and light.

The racism and sexism behind the pallid critiques of Gorman are obvious but less obvious perhaps is the notional idea that the MFA driven (and now Ph.D driven) “academy” gets to decide what poetry is, which is of course a social lie, to borrow the poet Kenneth Rexroth’s term. Here’s Rexroth:

“Since all society is organized in the interest of exploiting classes and since if men knew this they would cease to work and society would fall apart, it has always been necessary, at least since the urban revolutions, for societies to be governed ideologically by a system of fraud.”

Yes and then there’s this:

“There is an unending series of sayings which are taught at your mother’s knee and in school, and they simply are not true. And all sensible men know this, of course.”

And sensible women and lovers of poetry. I do not welcome the MFA crowd governing joy, hopes and the widening of poetry’s reach.

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

2 thoughts on “Why Poets Can’t Have Nice Things”

  1. Hear, hear. And I’d add that, in addition to racism, classism and righteous MFA snarkiness, I’d add ageism, in reverse, the fear the old have of the vitality, fresh energy and creative expansiveness of the young.


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