Friday, June 20, 2008

Our Commonality

I am happy to see from conversations I have had with people and the various postings that I have linked to above (or, I guess, below) that the recent SPT Aggression Conference is living on in people’s minds. Today there is a long post by Gary Sullivan, who wasn't there but has a really interesting sense of what happened, with extensive comments by some who were there and some who weren't. There is a lot of possibility in the energy around this. There should certainly be more conferences. This one was of particular interest for not being academic but there is a lot of gray area in just how academic many conferences are. And it seems very much at this moment in time to be posssible and necessary to find other ways to investigate our commonality or lack of it, our poetics, our groupings, our individualities, our sense of whether our issues are personal or public and a whole lot of other stuff, not least of it all being a common feeling of being discluded. Who are ‘we’ and what is our problem?

An example of the disclusion issue I typically share with students is when I’ve found myself feeling hateful toward a magazine I was not in when I encountered it in the world only to remember that I had been invited to contribute but forgot to. I have also had the experience (more than twice) of being ranted to by well known poets in my gen with many books that they can’t get published anywhere and feel entirely unappreciated. Then there is the further experience of being invited to a conference but not being able to come up with the dough to go. Then there are the claims those of us from the working class make about our childhoods without prep school. And there is the complaint that those of us who are not academics don’t get summers off. Well, we don’t. But no one likes a whiner.

So the question, my question, is

How do you define the poetry community?

I have already asked this question of several people by email and have gotten some amazing answers. If you want to respond but don’t want to post an answer please backchannel me. And, needless to say, more on this.


Blogger Gary said...

Hi Laura,

I hope you'll post some of the answers to your question about what the poetry community is for us to read. I'd definitely be interested in seeing how that's defined, and how different people might differently define it.

My own definition is that the poetry community consists of all who actively participate in one or more of the social aspects of the "poetry world."

To me, it pretty much means anyone who is at all engaged at any level beyond writing their own work.

The problem with my definition might be that it's too general to mean much.

But it is what I personally think of as the poetry community.

5:43 AM  
Blogger konrad said...

Hey Gary,

Do you mean that only poets (those "writing their own work") constitute "the poetry community?" I could see that poets have a special status. And i agree about the sociality aspect, where people share and do stuff together. But only poets sounds like a cadre, not a community.

My definition of "community" is a nexus of "low degrees of separation," where pairs of individuals and groups know each other each in multiple roles: writers attend classes together, poets are also office-workers, comic artists are also poets, collaborations between poets and other artists, musicians are in bands with poets, poets' spouses come to parties, a lover's friend becomes a good reader of your work, students become peers of their teachers, audience members at one place are curators at another, your barber shows up at a St. Marks reading, etc , etc.

I guess i'm just abusing the slipperiness of your comment to assert that i just don't believe in the "essential attribute" approach. An artistic community seems to be a dense pluralism of (positive, negative and variable ) relations between people, without the possibility of a membership rule.

You might think a community with an large number of poets might be "The" poetry community. But i don't even think there is just one of those. Still, maybe what they have in common as poetry communities is that they, when they're healthy, also look outside the community for what poetry can be. A healthy community doesn't know exactly what a poet looks like, acts like or feels like.

12:12 AM  

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