I got a last minute invite to read this weekend (today) at whatever the sequel to last year’s Boston Poet Tea Party is called. I accepted. Work then precluded my participation. Oh well.
Should I have accepted the last minute invitation? Yes, I would like to read, and be among those who take poetry seriously. But at the late date, I hadn’t time to prepare. Just digging around for something I felt comfortable reading would take time. I needed to practice reading the work, too. It’s always uncomfortable when poets read as if they haven’t seen the work before or cannot find something in their book or sheaf of papers. Myself me, I don’t fuss with (look at) my poems much, once written, I await that MacArthur check to accomplish that. I could not, then, have read except in hurried awkward mode, and I want to be more serious than that.
Furthermore, I felt my nose slipping out of joint to discover on the Boston Poetry Blog an entry in May, two months a-gone, announcing the event. The roster included a list of those already accepted. Presumably Poet X could not attend and my name came up in the replacement lottery. It feels too much like attention desperation to accept those terms. Having to work allowed me to think this thru beyond the context of paragraph 2, sentence 2.
I grant the issue here seems so whatish but it plops on concerns both local and of wider broadcast. Basically, who runs this ship, and why is it being run?
Boston’s ‘scene’ is scattered and unfocused. This may owe partly to the competing gravities of our many schools. It also owes to NYC’s seductive gravity, which draws the local fresh effort to the greater shine. It takes a former local, Jim Behrle, to scare up a reading such as this. It works because everyone wants their seven minutes in the sun.
But it is just summary cliques comporting. So far as I know, I am the only one to write a report of last year’s event (here). I believe that lack from others is telling. The poetry scene here is construed entirely as a social context. Nothing wrong with that except what it does to the poetry. The insolence of reflection is pushed aside for the greater good of conviviality. Or something like that. Not that there wasn’t varied and wonderful poetry at the event last year, and to come this year, as well. But the guffaws and the enfolding freshets of applause are trained towards the arbiting influence.
Now, if I said I don’t believe I deserve to be included willy nilly, I would say the same of Robert Creeley—and him all dusty from the grave—and anyone else. I’m saying it is not a matter of hierarchy, influence, and the top percentile. It is a matter of bringing something. Okay, Creeley risen from the grave constitutes bringing something. Part of the something that I mean is poetry, but anyone can write poetry. Anyone can also offer the generosity of critical balance and earnest appreciation, too. Yes, Creeley would have brought all that. I see that lacking in the current association, however. Instead, a snarky inbred club has gotten the best seats up there on Parnassus top. Bringing something carries greater import for me than knowing someone.
I see on the updated slate for today (here) that Henry Gould and I would have read in the same grouping. Henry and I read together lo these many. For me, it was the first time I’d read publicly since Robert Grenier facilitated some readings at Franconia. It was poorly attended but it felt like glory. Henry’s an outlier, and I guess so am I. And I further guess—because who knows these things?—that we should all be outliers. The restrictive emblems of this group thing is a loss. It will go on, tho, because people like importance.