Friday, December 09, 2005

CP3: Bird Magic and the Poetics of Demographics

But is that the way it’s always been? Or is it just another indication of the dumbing down of America? Or has film, TV, and the internets (tip o’ the hat to W) spoiled us all? Without performing a statistical analysis of demographics and other historical data, I can’t really say for certain. Although I am a trained historian, and could, if I so wished, spend some years on this question and come back to you with a definitive if interminable answer, but for now let me intuitively respond: no, no, no. Longfellow was quite a popular bloke. There are more college graduates out there than ever. And Stephen King is doing quite well with the written word.

But let me digress. It is said that professional basketball was saved in the eighties by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Larry Bird, in particular, convinced me, for one, that I would never be great (with a capital G) at anything. Before his arrival in Boston, I never knew the price for greatness. Nor the mindset needed. But after reading daily about his endless practices, his limitless drive, and his dedication to the game beyond everything else in life, I knew that my own scattershot and scatter-brained attitude towards ever-changing interests would never bring me to any kind of title shot. But that’s me. Thankfully, Larry was Larry.

But Larry would have been just another Tom, Dick, or Harry without the crowd. Without the paid attendance. Without the Garden where he could display his greatness with Magic. And there would have been no forum for Magic or Larry without the Russels and Chamberlains before them. And the Reds. Like Longfellow building the parquet floor for Frost, and Whitman for Ginsberg. But the poets today have taken their ball home to the MFAs and workshops. To play their own little games. Amongst themselves. Trying to make their magic fly like some paper bird with the dispassionate skills of a Wilbur or an Ashbery. And… nothing but air.

1 comment:

Loren said...

Unfortunately I don't think this is even a new phenomena.

As good a poet as Roethke was only getting a $100 a poem in 1960. And you can't buy many Italian villas on those wages.

Either you write poetry as a sideline, after you've finished your day job, or you take a job in a university.

I place more of the blame on critics and PHD programs that require "original" research, like how many times "the" appears in Eliot's Wasteland. Once I looked at the titles for PHD candidates in English and realized I couldn't get a college job on the basis of my writing, I was through with the idea of ever teaching in a college.