Monday, April 14, 2008

"The end of poetry is pleasure..." literally?

There's been a fair amount of backlash against poetry readings lately, as in one of the comments to a recent Mark Wallace blogpost, and in Josh Corey's thoughtful reservations about performing his work. Could just be the whole tedious April poetry thing, along with a general dubiousness and exhaustion. I have no opinion about it myself, but find it striking that alongside this there's a clear growing interest in poetry audio and video, viz., Poetry Speaks, Ubuweb, and various useful and popular websites and podcasts devoted to such.

At first, I wondered whether there was something in the character of poems being written in these times that mitigates against the effectiveness of readings, but I figure if Ezra Pound had no difficulty reciting the Cantos poets can be as complex as possible and still read just fine; indeed, there must be more poetry readings now than ever - maybe the ubiquity explains why the fatigue has set in.

So, too much of a good thing? Not a good thing? Or maybe it's just a matter of poets not wanting to be members of a club that would let people like them join: seems like some of this is also coincident with media reports about the frenzy to hear Mary Oliver. I mean, poetry readings are probably just another un-ironized tradition that have got to go, right? Still, poets appear to want to be heard and seen reading from their work just as much as they want to be perceived as working on the edge, in the margins. (Being on the outside sounds better than being on the inside; but that's a whole 'nother story.)

Do they contradict themselves? Very well then...


Rolli said...

Too bad about the American backlash. Now, in my own neck of the woods (Canada), readings remain popular. Our literary community is a comparatively small one, though; we huddle together, for warmth. And haven't been clubbed senseless by irony, just yet.

equivocal said...

Don-- I've responded to this here: