Monday, April 1, 2013
I'd like to reprint something I'd said exactly two years ago today about the senselessness (and indeed absurdity) of Poetry Month. I've only gotten angrier since then. Here's what I said and devil take the hindmost!
Following is Conrad's posting
Poetry is badly trivialized (and, in Donald Hall's way of talking, made into the "McPoem") when it's designated an April activity which poets everywhere are expected to celebrate through token acts of writing. The gesture is fake & insincere, designed to turn it into a spectator sport. It's just another way to institutionalize the poet's calling, another aspect of the "spectacle" it's become: writing class poetry, performance & publication are, in fact, all departments in Poetry Inc. to which poets pay their dues if they want to be recognized. In fact, it dishonours the lives of poets everywhere who've had to face imprisonment, death & real alienation through self-expression (Radnóti Miklós, Joseph Brodsky,Václav Havel, José Martí, Paul Celan, García Lorca, Forugh Farrokhzad, Liu Xiaobo etc.). I will celebrate a 'poetry month' only when poets in our part of the world have to face real persecution for their work.
April will always be to me only one thing: Cancer Awareness month. I've lost to cancer too many friends, relatives & acquaintances. I won't dare for a moment to share this month with anything that has the potential to divert people's attention away from the vital issues of cancer and cancer research. Compared to this poetry (certainly as it's practiced in North America) is a frivolous pastime for people who are little able to appreciate what commitment to art really means.