Friday, January 8, 2010

Poetry...

I was thinking this morning, in connection with my preparations for the speaking engagements I have planned for early this year, about poetry, and about how the poet is the only "artist" for whom financial success represents not even the glimmer of a hope. Every other kind of writer can always hope--most of us vainly!--for a book that sells well in the bookshops. Performance artists of all kinds have to concern themselves with the costs of production and finding audiences. Visual artists produce objects that can be marketed, and can entertain the prospect--however remote, for some--of gallery shows and sales. A book of poetry has virtually no commercial value, and the poet has no prospect of survival without the "day job"--whether in academia or elsewhere. You can be a professional actor, a professional dancer, a professional musician, a professional writer; but the idea of a "professional poet" is an oxymoron.

And no, I don't agree with those who argue that the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are "the poets of our time." I see them as minstrels--no offense intended!--who combine words and music, and whose art is precisely in the combination. Poems, as I see it, exist in and for themselves. They make their own music. They are sound and image, a complex of meanings and associations, and the audience for them is miniscule. Which allows the poet an enviable freedom. With no financial prospects or constraints, he or she is at liberty to go ahead and say exactly what needs to be said, without that backward glance over the shoulder to see what anyone might be thinking or expecting.

People have occasionally asked me why I don't think about the exploring the commercial possibilities of blogging--minimal though they might be. That would be simply awful. I can't imagine the kind of constraints that would place on The Buddha Diaries, as opposed to the freedom I enjoy, sitting down pretty much when I feel like it and scrabbling around on the keyboard. It's the giveaway that makes it such a pleasure, and I frankly would not wish it otherwise.

1 comment:

mandt said...

Exactly so......