Thursday, October 25, 2007

The poetry stripped bare by her poets, even

I keep seeing people with academic connections (i.e., they work or have worked in, would like to work or have worked in, or almost certainly have graduated from academic institutions) complain about, well, the relationship between poetry and the academic world. I fail to see why we can't have both a vivid living poetry alongside academic study of poetry, or why education is opposed to art or craft . Nobody's suggesting that sharp study and long toil are bad for either poetry or scholarship, are they?

As Lucas Klein, union organizer and editor of Cipher Journal, nicely puts it in his review of Segalen’s Stèles over on Jacket, "while certain cliques of Anglophone left-wing literati may still feign allergy to academic scholarship, such stubbornness — especially given the labor economics of the poetry world today — only alienates readers from their poets, and poems from their poetics. Such anti-intellectualism is better left to the right."

I guess a debate is brewing about this on Harriet and another on Fulcrum's Facebook fanclub. The subject depresses me, and I think this false dilemma is behind a lot of bad writing in verse and prose. On the one hand, Eliot said that the best method is to be very intelligent, and on the other Williams said "Smart's not good enough. Not by a long shot!"

Take your pick - not that these two comments are really at odds with each other.

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