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It’s the economy part II: scattered thoughts

By Cathy Park Hong

*An article that echoes my previous post on the recession and how it might affect artists.
* Travis helpfully mentioned an old NEA article on artists in the workforce. On that note, isn’t the risk-averse Bush appointee Dana Gioia stepping down to do some soul-searching in Aspen? I’m curious to see who Obama will appoint as Gioia’s successor (Art funding will probably be #70,455 on Obama’s to-do list). Perhaps the NEA will return to its pre-Piss Christ days and dole out individual grants to visual artists and launch more cutting-edge programs that promote innovative work by artists and not just arts education. This might be wishful thinking.
*Lavinia asked if the election will inspire more political poetry. I hope so. But I would think that the war, deregulation of corporations, Katrina, the pillaging of the environment, Abu Ghraib, and other corrosive abuses of power within the last eight years would be plenty reason to spur political poetry but has it? At the top of my head, I can think of a few poets whose latest collections have held a tuning fork to the world: Juliana Spahr, Ed Roberson, Claudia Rankine, Rodrigo Toscano, Barbara Jane Reyes, Dennis Nurkse, Matthea Harvey, and Aracelis Girmay. I’m sure there are many others who I’m forgetting…

Comments (5)

  • On November 23, 2008 at 2:27 pm Andrew Shields wrote:

    I’ve just been reading Mark Wallace’s “Felonies of Illusion,” which begins with a longer sequence called “The Long Republican Winter.”

  • On November 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm Matt wrote:

    So, writing topical poetry is the only way to “hold a tuning fork to the world”? Nothing wrong with that way, I guess, but if that’s the only way, that’s pretty sad.

  • On November 24, 2008 at 7:34 am Lavinia Greenlaw wrote:

    My question was slightly different. While there have been many other world events which demand a response, none has restored the feeling that action can bring about change – more often quite the opposite. This election has done that, leading me to wonder if this new sense of possibility, of potency and effectiveness, will translate into a renewed political engagement within the arts (not just poetry).
    I like your image of the tuning fork. It’s a good way to describe how poetry can best focus and convey the world going on around it.

  • On November 24, 2008 at 9:59 am unreliable narrator wrote:

    I feel great sorrow upon acknowledging that my personal choice for NEA czar (Tina Fey) will probably not even make the shortlist. After all she did to get the guy elected!

  • On November 25, 2008 at 8:47 am Cathy wrote:

    Hey Lavinia, thought it was a great question you posed and it just inspired me to recast that question to the recent past and if there has been any repercussions in poetry .
    And Matt, I completely agree! Only writing topical poetry would indeed be sad and quite boring ( I never advocate anything as the only way). But when I ask if there has been more “poetry that holds a tuning fork to the world,” I don’t mean poetry that’s a full throated Op-ed commentary in verse form. Consciousness of politics in poetry can reflect itself formally, linguistically, as well as thematically. Most poets I mentioned are not topical poets in fact. Far from it. Sure, Juliana’s Spahr’s poetry may be “about” 9-11 or American imperialism, but her consciousness of collectivity is most clearly articulated through relentless and sustained anaphora. Same with Harvey whose reference to terrorism is more allegorical and through an invented abecedarius device. Or Reyes and the polyphony in her poetry. I don’t think an awareness of society, culture and politics in your poetry, of asking that poetry be timely as well as timeless (through form, language and not just topic) is limiting. It can even be enriching.


Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 by Cathy Park Hong.