April, because of National Poetry Month, is a traumatic ordeal of a time for me.
A prevailing, I guess, part of me thinks “What a total bunch of fucking bullshit”– and for the past few years all April long I’m in a grouchy stupor-rage making snide and mean remarks, pissing on anything even remotely “poetry,” and relentlessly posting up pictures of beached whale carcasses.
And yet–a part of me identifies with this impressive cadre and camaraderie of poetry munchkins gathered squawking and encouraging and reassuring each other on the cliffs of poetry each April because, well, it must be a good thing. It must be, right?
And so this year I’ve decided to face the disturbing contraries of my soul and the way they bristle and soft-feather up at National Poetry Month by setting up, as any good Caesar of the soul, some death matches. And in each case the death match will consist of a “for” and “against” stance fought out between two of my friend surrogates. And in each case I’ll stand up above the fray with thumb at the ready.
And, the first death match is between Reb Livingston and Jereme Dean.
by Reb Livingston
What’s ruining/killing poetry this month? Well, it’s April so that must mean the culprit is National Poetry Month. Or so claims my anti-NaPoMo poet pals on social media.
NaPoMo began in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to increase attention and awareness to poetry by way of an organized, concerted effort among publishers, booksellers, teachers, literary organizations, libraries and poets. This means readings and other poetry-related events happening all over the country at libraries, bookstores, schools, art centers and also venues where one might not expect to find poetry. It means prominent displays of poetry books in bookstores and libraries that customers and patrons can easily see and peruse. It means bookstores and publishers offering special deals on books enticing people to buy them. It means thousands of free poetry books distributed giving people an opportunity to read them. It means media attention on poetry books, poems and poets; articles, reviews, interviews, profiles. It means a poetry focus in classrooms introducing children to poems.
Do these organized NaPoMo efforts get people who have absolutely no interest in poetry (arguably most people) to see the light and become interested in poetry? I don’t think so. Do these gestures give people who are open to poetry, but currently have no or little connection to poetry, an opportunity to discover and connect with poetry? Yes. You don’t need a formal poetry education or belong to a poetry community to be interested in poetry. Nor should you have to be. But without such background and connections, you’re a lot less likely to know where to start or what’s even out there because poetry doesn’t get much attention. NaPoMo is an attempt to address that.
Are some NaPoMo efforts cheesy? That’s in the eye of the beholder, but I would say sure. Can the endless-seeming NaPoMo-inspired fundraisers be excessive? Or unnecessary? Sometimes it feels that way. If such-and-such organization doesn’t raise $15k by midnight tonight, poetry will still exist tomorrow morning.
Do organized NaPoMo efforts make your poetic practices any less valid or artful or subversive? Turn your own poems into gimmicks? If your neighbor makes his poems mainstream, will that turn your poems mainstream? If so, maybe the problem is your weak-ass poems. Poems are supposed to endure.
If your neighbor reads his poem on PBS, will PBS come for your poems next? Save your tin-foil hat for a bigger threat.
Or is the concern that people will hear your shitty neighbor read his shitty poem and think that represents all poetry? People are going to think what they’re going to think. Let’s not lose sleep over such trifles.
Another one of the affronts on poetry, according to my anti-NaPoWriMo poet pals, is National Poetry Writing Month, which also happens during April. NaPoWriMo is often conflated with NaPoMo, even among poets who should know better. NaPoWriMo is an annual project, started by poet Maureen Thorson in 2003, that encourages people to write a new poem every day for the entire month. 30 poems in 30 days. Madness, for sure.
This means thousands of poems, possibly really shitty poems, are being quickly written and shared on blogs all across the world! If you mistakenly read one of the NaPoWriMo-inspired poems, hair will grow onto your corneas and from then on you’ll only be able to successfully jerk it to James Franco-related projects and that’s fucked up.
NaPoMo and NaPoWriMo will never appeal to everyone and I’m not suggesting that it should appeal to you. Your feelings are also legitimate and I respect them. I’m not a complete cheerleader for all things promoting poetry. That Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day truly creeps me out and if some stranger ever whips a poem out right in front of me, I swear I’ll cut it right off.
There are a number of organized cultural phenomena I do not care for such as the Super Bowl, March Madness, Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, Grammys, Real Housewives, Kardashians and St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, having to hear and see things related to them is immensely annoying. I have my reasons, which are surely just as legitimate as any anti-NaPoMo’er or anti-NaPoWriMo’er. Tough titties for me. Other people care about these things, find a bizarre, twisted worth to the point where they tweet and post about them incessantly.
At times like these, I get over myself, close my laptop, read a book or write a quick poem to post on my Tumblr.
Okay, so that was the “Pro”
and now the “Con”
BEAUTY IS THE TROPHY OF DISMEMBERED CHILDREN
by Jereme Dean
The idea that poetry is the offspring of language is as true as prostate cancer in the lesbian community. A time machine should be constructed and used to search/destroy whatever wig wearing cunt started the lie.
Poetry is defined as a manifestation: the aftermath of a pyrrhic victory of something weak over something strong; like the sighing moan from a stray dog limping down an alley after being hit with a pizza delivery truck piloted by its previous owner.
A poet is someone who has endured several of these events or a marathon/absurdly powerful one and recreates the agony of persistence as a means of survival; a coping mechanism.
The schizophrenic wearing the same stained under-sized jeans and over-sized dress shirt on the corner of Hollywood and Wilton every day for the past 5 years is a poet, his poetry the cadence of shuffling feet.
Sam Pink’s bi-polar mind is a poet, his poetry the vocalization of a mutual subconscious which imprisons us all.
The unending universe is a poet and the portion of itself that is uncomprehensible, and will always remain so, its poetry.
Poetry is not inherently intellectual or exclusive. It is rare but can be found in all places, creatures and objects.
In the professional fighting world, there are four attributes to judge a fighter by: technique, athleticism, speed and heart. Out of these, only heart is unteachable and everlasting. Which is why it’s the fuck cousin of poetry.
Heart is arguably the most important too. Technique, speed and athleticism may win fights, garner jumbo paychecks and hold the belt but the melee people remember despite time’s oppression is when a fighter absorbs damage to the point of horror and continues walking forward, eventually suffocating the stronger force with his/her spilled blood.
It’s the same with poetry. While there are brilliant word fetishists who change the motion and breath of language, what’s accomplished becomes white-washed with passing years and consumed books, then painted over by emerging brilliance. In other words, everything becomes a shit blur and nothing solely phenomenal exists for long.
What makes poetry immortal isn’t the perfect juxtaposition of words; it’s the action a dandelion blossoming from a pile of salt takes, not for fame or validation or attention or acceptance or sexual conquest or word pornography or clever cuteness or monetary gain or social ranking or web hits or for any reason other than one: who is you.
It’s this intangible the soul identifies with and the brain fails to. What will always remain and resonate. The vigiliance of heart.
For me, authentic poetry is the only genuine form of man’s concept of beauty.
This is why the MFA in poetics is laughably worthless. Why frumps ejaculating every day for a month is egotistical self-aggrandizement. And why professors with unblemished hands analyzing the symbolic merit of a red wheelbarrow is considerably pathetic.
In other words, National Poetry Month is fucking dumb.
Reb Livingston makes sweet love to sable-eyed poems all April-long. She’s also the author of Bombyonder (forthcoming, Bitter Cherry 2014), God Damsel (No Tell Books 2010) and Your Ten Favorite Words (Coconut Books 2007)
Jereme Dean lives in Los Angeles and is the author of nothing. Most of his life has been spent thinking about death. He’s an avid hoarder of used panties. God bless.