Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sardines, by Michael Goldberg, 1955

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Why I Am Not A Poet

I admire poets who say that
who you know is the most important facet of
being a poet, because it’s so
absurd and yet it partakes of a
large portion of truth as regards career. Of
course a career is not a poem, or not in the
poets’ sense of “a poem,” though it may be a
poem in the aesthetic or mystic or cosmic
I enjoy arguing about poetry -- particularly
various aspects of the history of
poetry, and about poetry’s relationship with
other forms of verse -- jingle, song lyric -- and
about prosody. Many of
the people arguing are themselves
poets -- or most of
them -- and yet I have little
interest in their actual poetry. For
instance, if I didn’t love
myself so well, I would likely have little
interest in the poems I’ve been writing and
posting the last few days.
Like, for instance, these
line breaks -- is there
anything in the world more mannered than
arbitrary line breaks? I
enjoy imagining a brief pause
coming at the ends of these
lines, and enjambment is
a pleasure, for the enjamber
anyway, and I wonder whether the
coming of the pause is
orgasmic --
I am not a poet because the idea of
reciting or publishing or
submitting -- submissive word, submit! -- submitting
poems for publication fills me with a sense of
distaste. Really. And anyway
who would publish them? They’re not
any good, probably, though I do, honestly,
like them.
I could name
of poets whose examples
tread lightly or
in my mind’s echoing ear as
type these things into a
but why
bother. I’d only insult
the dead and their
admirers. Oh, maybe one
living too. No
When I was 18, 19, 20, I
wrote poems assiduously, and
recited them and
submitted them and
got a handful of
them published and
I was on my little dorm-poetry
scene, along
poets who have gone on to illustrious
careers as playwrights and made
no money,
or very
And poets who stopped writing poetry, and
one poet who has published several books to notable
acclaim and become a professor of
poetry, though she wasn’t really part of
the dorm scene even though
she lived in
the dorm and for a while
dated someone on the theater
scene which
overlapped with
the poetry scene and who
has made a living writing
in Hollywood. I could name
and if you were part of
that scene you
who I’m
talking about.
Naming names is an important part
of the poetry scene in
Blogville -- not just who
you know but who you
The political blog scene with which I’ve overlapped a tiny
bit and the music blog
scene with which I’ve intersected a
lot both don’t care that
I don’t post my last
The only people who have ever
cared have been denizens of
the poetry blog
scene. It’s really
weird. And funny! Especially when the guff comes
from poets associated with the fetish of
“the death of the author” -- not that Barthes’s essay is
worthless -- or from a poet -- and this happened
once -- who first made his
under a pseudonym! And I admired -- and
continue to admire -- his old pseudonymous
poems. So it was flattering to be argued with
by him, and to be challenged about my
and be referred to as
in quotes as
if that’s not my
It is my
(Only a few people have ever called me
and fewer still
though I always liked
and briefly used the radio
“Big Jack”
and my attempt 16 years ago
to give myself the nickname
failed pitifully.)
When I started this
blog it was on a whim and an
ambition to write and think and take part in
interesting conversations and I
wasn’t sure whether I’d want my last
associated with it so I
kept it off, and whenever anybody challenged me I
always said that the last name is findable on
the links on the blog -- specifically on
the “My Band”
link -- and that if people were so
concerned about
they could look it up.
I can imagine being a poet again, and in a
way I never stopped being
one because
I write verses for songs and always have, and I
do believe that song lyrics are a type of
poetry though I
make no claim for
mine apart from their
tunes. The point is they don’t need to
make a claim apart from their tunes, they
were meant to go with their tunes. But if I
were to try to be a tuneless poet again I
would only attempt it in a performance
context, because
I have no faith in “page”
poetry any more, it seems always a
private affair, my own
stuff very much
included, written for the Whatever of
though I still
enjoy reading
it including new
-- maybe even yours! --
no recent “page” poet for decades has
altered my sense of
language and life, has grabbed my
innards and tossed them skyward like
a baby. I shouldn’t blame poetry or
for that, but there it
Why I am not a poet.

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