Friday, December 08, 2006

Thug Life

A life in poetry: what might that mean? How do poets occupy office jobs or fly in airplanes or deal with bureaucrats differently from non-poets?

I can recognize poets whose writing is on the same continuum as their everyday life (for some reason it’s not “professional” poets I think of this way so much as activist poets like kari edwards, or writers like John Wieners or Hannah Wiener, whose phone calls and poems and notebooks and symptoms seem of one piece). But in so many situations that happen off the page, I’m not sure what the ‘poetic’ response is. Some soufflĂ© of openness, freedom, orneriness, goofiness, and encouragement where possible of those values in others, plus not being a Republican.

That doesn’t seem grand enough to constitute “a life lived in poetry,” the way an Alice Notley or Nada Gordon or Ezra Pound or Juliana Spahr conceives it, or the way I imagine they conceive it judging from the energies that animate their poetry.

If there’s still any romance left in being a poet, it hovers around this question for me. It’s the life you want in the end more than the poems—otherwise you’re just left with some version of that creepy Eliot/Stevens/Gioia model of the businessman-poet, spreadsheets by day and poems slipped out of a drawer by night.

I guess what I’m wondering is what poetry looks like without the poems.


BB said...

I think about it every day, R K (p.s. HI!!)

It's a question, obviously, for not all of us--just the ones who have to work for a living throughout their life. Half of us?

Making the transition from living-dirt-poor-off-student-loans while getting an MFA to living-slightly-more-cleanly-poor-off- mind-destroying-8 to 5-job has just presented the challenge: do not let mind be destroyed. Inventing ways of translating my servitude (which I will have to maintain my entire life) into an artistic practice makes my eye itch.

Anyway, it's too early in the morning for me to say something enlightening--but it seems to me that the "life in poetry" is determined by the lives of poets, and only somewhat the other way around. The high Modernist (hi I'm Ezra Pound, I go marry rich wife)thing, ugh, right?--but then again, who wants to labor in servitude?

rodney k said...


I miss you guys!

Do not let mind be destroyed. Coffee breaks for Persian, Greek, Sanskrit.

My eye itches, too. Poetry as poultice? No way out. Some way in?

SOS--Save Our Sensibility.