If you tell poet A you don't like X or Y's poetry, esp. if it's a writer who turns out to be a personal (and almost always public) sacred cow, you can see them seethe with rage. They hate you.

When the name of a poet that they dislike comes up, poet B says aggressively- they suck! That's as much information as you can get from them about how they feel about it.

Poet C might indicate they dislike something and you might actually manage to get into an exchange about why, but all you hear is a list of unmet preloaded expectations rather than a take what the poetry is doing and why it is bad.

Is it just the problem of communicating difference in a competitive space that makes poets defensive in a way that seems to drive them away from their own critiques? Or are the critiques privately worked out and unspeakable in public?

This negative framing works in a similar way on listserves but the protective glass of the computer screen obviates this problem of instant freeze. Instead the "critique" is expressed by some kind of outpouring of abuse from younger male poet D and the distrust that follows chokes off the conversion on the list, often for good.

Poet E and F, both of whom are friends of mine and both of whom are intelligent and sensitive people recently had an argument about a recent critical book on a listserve. Neither was able to communicate or describe their position or what they really thought the thing was or what the problem was exactly. They were two muffled walls politely grinding past each other. Is it the unprocessed quality of our competitive relations to each other that freezes this stuff out? Or is it just the result of a general context of being spectacularly unwanted by our society?

No comments: