Friday, November 1, 2013

"Nowadays, the idea of someone speaking for a 'community' feels almost repellent to me..."


Given the mental brownout I suffer when confronted with abstractions like “race,” “class,” “gender,” “politics,” I’ve become ever more skeptical that poets can speak for communities: they can speak to what they think the community is — they can assume commonalities — they can, in a limited way, propose certain shared values as if they actually existed, as Whitman did — but somehow, some way, they need to signal that they’re aware of the limitations of their 
singular, subjective viewpoint.

And as for a poet addressing posterity, in our current rising sea-level, four hundred parts of carbon dioxide per million eco-disaster mode, it’s impossible for any poet to know in the moment of writing if there’s even going to be a posterity to write for or to. Not that posterity was anything but a fantasy made popular by Romantic notions of the artist as representative sufferer...

Nowadays, the idea of someone speaking for a “community” feels almost repellent to me... The overt expression of positions, at least in my ears, sounds like iron smashing against iron.

--Tom Sleigh, "To Be Incarnational," Poetry, November 2013 

Pictured: Satellite photograph of deforestation in progress