April is winding down and I’m not really sure how much was settled with the first National Poetry Death Match (ie, my soul is still soooooo confused) so in order to settle things I’ve decided to bring out two more big, passionate and extremely eloquent mercenary lovers for a second “Death Match” where I hope the “disturbing contraries of my soul” can be brought into line, can be made to heal, can be brought into a beautiful, “poetic” harmony.
And, so, the second National Poetry Month death match is between Russell Jaffe and Seth(x) AbraHaM$on. And, no, this is not Seth Abramson, it is, instead, a well known writer who has chosen, here for the ring of this Death Match, to be know as Seth(x) AbraHam$on.
National Poetry Month: More poems for more people sounds good to me
by Russell Jaffe
Look: Poetry can be a real distance, one that’s abstract enough to play tricks on the mind. And a lot of the time, our mind needs that abstraction. The mind is a muscle that needs exercise. The mind has eyes that strain to make meaning. National Poetry Month is a vantage point where the horizon introduces the land to the sky. Poets.org, The Academy of American Poets’ hilltop ram horn ceremonial messenger of a website, says
National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.
Poetry sustains itself, to be perfectly clear, and to continue that clarity, The Academy of American Poets does not own poetry, nor does it decide what poetry should do or needs to do. But what it does in this case is exactly what is says it wants to do—raise awareness. And this is a very good, very beautiful thing. Because bringing poFetry to the awareness of greater audiences is recognizing poetry for what it is: a force in the universe, a lifestyle, a natural order within the mind not unlike the cosmos, which itself has a natural order despite our dubious and oft-flimsy understanding of it. If you step back and look, poetry is a way of being in the world, and institutional hierarchies, individuals scrawling on scrap paper or on walls, Tweeters Tweeting, students student-ing are all just shimmering dots in a great system that we should all, every one, step back and admire sometimes. It’s around us, anyway. It’s the universe, for the most part.
We’re humans, and what we do is document and categorize. So having a month earmarked by an organization a wide range of people know of and respect to be focused on poetry is really important. Instead of putting the focus on The Academy of American Poets, it puts the focus on poetry itself. It focuses the telescope on a fixed image of conversation and thought about poetry and language and meaning and the mind. Whether you’re seeing “Poets I Want to Punch in the Face(book)” or “Poets I want to Kiss on the Face(book),” that dialogue, that tin-can-and-string intimacy, is happening about poetry. Poetry competes against nothing. Poetry wins.
Because for a lot of people, it seems, embedded within the poetry marketplace, it can be a mirage—we look at it and we see publishing work as means to academic career ends; or to spots reviewing other poets’ work for journals or blogs, or both, sort of the equivalent of carving out a little niche in the rock-face of poetry and making a home within it; fairly basic attention-getting (which also is a basic human urge, and not always a bad thing at all.) On the other side, the poetry marketplace can be a community it’s easy for people to get lost in. From young journal keepers working up the muster to share for the first time to new readers and performance-y slammers, a marketplace hierarchy of poets is an overwhelming and potentially dangerous place full of unsavory corners and mocking eyes. And that’s why National Poetry Month is legit cool—it says yes to people, to all people, yes to reading, yes to submitting. Poem-a-day challenges, showcases, yes, this is an occasion.
People are creatures of occasion. Occasion suits us. And sometimes we need occasion as a vessel for appreciation, for focused thought, and for paying attention. Of course, now we realize the gravity of art—that it exists in literature, images, and even in promotion. A month of poetry in our classrooms, online, and in our imaginations is something we can all use, regardless of how embedded in poetry as labor, as therapy, as expression, as fucking around for the fuck of it, as floating through space as we want it to be. National Poetry Month may be designed to shed a little light on us from a distance, but it’s as human as you can get.
Okay, so that was the “Pro”
and now the “Con”
by Seth(x) AbraHaM$on
I don’t understand for the life of me where the Academy of American Poets gets off telling us it’s suddenly time for poetry. National Poetry Month is bullshit. Or as Plath would write it, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
National Poetry Month might seem to some (read: grandparents who can take a break from having no clue what their MFA-entrenched grandkids are doing with their lives) like a way to bring poetry into some kind of bullshit national spotlight for a month, but it couldn’t be further from that. What it is is a way to regurgitate the same slop the same pillow-padded poets of institutional validation puffiness back and forth among each other. Whatever. Doesn’t anyone notice that the poets of National Poetry Month are ones with books out or editors of presses just showing off for each other, primping their plumage in an obnoxious courtship ritual within the private zoo that has become poetry? NO Poem-A-Day is by a “non-established” poet! If National Poetry Month were actually unique or special or whatever The Academy of American Poets, a farty old gashouse of yester-was, wanted it to be, people would actually be reading new poetry. Not just poetry from a shallow wading pool of “successful poets,” but from kids. Or high school dropouts. Or lyricists. Or old ladies writing about cats.
Where are the slam poets, huh? Where are the poets on Instagram? Where are the poets wearing fedoras and drinking coffee or whisky and blogging about that shit?Whether they’re good or not shouldn’t enter into the equation. The Academy of American Poets does not have the right to tell us what’s good. Or what’s worth preserving or sharing. Nowhere, that’s where, because the Academy of American Poets says they aren’t worth our time. No, only writers with books and teaching jobs are worth our time.
National Poetry Month is Valentine’s Day: If you’re in a couple and you both love each other, you might get each other flowers or chocolates or something and watch a rom-com or get it on one extra time or something, etc etc etc. What I’m saying is, if you’re on the winning side, you play along. For most, however, Valentine’s Day
is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to sell not just a gender binary, but a hetero-normative status-quo, a zeitgeist of monogamy and playing by certain rules. Rules like chivalry and material romance. Rules that are stupid. It’s just another opportunity they take to try to get us to pry open our wallets and give them our hard earned money. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t make a deal of it at all.Think of it this way: Why is there a Black History Month? Or Women’s History Month? Because the rest of the time, it’s White History Year. THAT’S what’s up. We have a month dedicated to learning and preserving stories about the fascinating, critically important histories of Americans . Then we shut the power off on that, because why? It’s inconvenient for a power majority? I guess poets, writers and artists aren’t the majority, and that they’re inconvenient.
If National Poetry Month does anything at all, it exposes this need to be told what to feel and when to feel it. That’s cool, I guess. That’s corporate America, and corporations are people, too.
Russell Jaffe is the Co-Editor of Strange Cage, a chapbook poetry press, and MC/coordinator of its reading series. He is the author of one poetry collection, This Super Doom I Aver (Poets Democracy, ’13), and a few chapbooks. His writing about art appears in The Little Village Magazine and his poems have appeared in The Colorado Review, [PANK], H_NGM_N, Spork, La Petite Zine, American Letters & Commentary, and others. He collects 8-tracks. His baby, a collaboration with Carleen Tibbetts, is forthcoming in August. He is online at russelljaffeusa.com
Seth(x) AbraHaM$on is an extremely famous Western Cowboy poet. He has also starred in numerous pornographic movies. He might be a woman and he might be a dog. He is brash, elegant and indomitable. He invites you to love him on Twitter, in brothels, alleyways, dumpsters, under your boot soles. Wherever! And whenever!