Sunday, December 09, 2007

On Poetic Rationalizations:

No contemporary poet is famous, but some are less unfamous than others. That’s because the poetry world, like most areas of American life, has its own peculiar celebrity system — ... The problem is, poetic stardom is an unpredictable business. Good writing doesn’t guarantee a reputation; bad writing doesn’t guarantee oblivion; nor can grace, money or nimble careerism entirely explain why Poet X reads to overflowing auditoriums, whereas Poet Y reads to his cats. Maybe it’s simply the case that, as William Munny remarked in “Unforgiven,” “deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” ...

After all, as Donald Justice once said, “there may well be analyzable causes behind the oblivion some good writers suffer, but the causes, whatever they are, remain elusive.” Still, if the causes of a lack of recognition are unknowable, the causes of recognition are equally obscure — which means that luck can always turn.

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David Orr : "On Poetry Words of the World" - Sunday Book Review - New York times
via Jilly's Blog

5 comments:

Poet Hound said...

I agree that poetry has its own strange celebrity world. I am often frustrated in book-stores trying to find certain poets (same with libraries) for not featuring anyone else except Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, and Billy Collins. They are all good poets, but what about Rae Armantrout, Julia Cohen, and the thousands of other awesome poets? And heaven forbid I ever see Lucille Clifton have more than one hidden volume on the shelves of an indie book-store.

Nick said...

Public libraries (at least the ones around here) unfortunately aren't much better in terms of providing variety when it comes to emerging (or lesser know) poets. University libraries are usually the only haven for discovering the more obscure (in terms of celebrity status).

Collin said...

Finding "celebrity" as a poet today seems to be tied to the Internet and Web. If you want to find the best books of poetry, they aren't going to be in your library or B&N.

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Collin, I agree with you on the first point that you make. "Celebrity" status in the poetry world (which seems at best to be an oxymoron) does seem to be tied more and more to an internet presence. I've met several fine poets that I would never have been introduced to otherwise. I was just commenting on the fact that often this celebrity status does not translate itself into the language of the traditional literary world.