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Angst For Hire
The Atlantic recently posted an article noting a Craigslist ad from an enterprising poet, Aaron Belz, that read:
“Poet available to begin work immediately. Capable in rhyme and meter, fluent in traditional and contemporary forms. Quotidian observations available at standard rate of $15/hour; occasional verse at slightly higher rate of $17/hour. Incomprehensible garbage $25/hour. Angst extra.”
However tongue-in-cheek, the ad highlights shifts in contemporary literature due to technology:
When the services it offers are put into practice, the sale of Belz’s poetry shows how technological and market tools — like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Craigslist, and Etsy — can help connect poets to a wider audience and reinvigorate poetry itself: by emphasizing the practical, craftsman side of the art that is too often overshadowed by conceptual and “post-avant” posturing.
The article then goes deeper into issues of artistry, capitalism and isolation:
Camille Paglia observed last fall in The Wall Street Journal (“How Capitalism Can Save Art”) that contemporary artists have long had a predisposition to eschew market tools, disregarding the entrepreneurial side of artistic craft in favor of retreating into “an airless echo chamber” — in which artists listen and respond only to other artists. They shouldn’t, she wrote, and suggested that a renewed emphasis on the trades — where artists “see themselves as entrepreneurs” — could help them to break free from the “ideology and cant” that have continued to decrease art’s impact on the world.
In poetry, this retreat into the echo chamber began at least as early as 1951. In his influential essay that year for The Kenyon Review, “Advance-Guard Writing,” Paul Goodman argued that American capitalism had alienated poets from their audience and proposed that they respond by writing for a small circle of peers to create an alternative society in which poetry would flourish. Goodman was important to many poets at the time, including Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and Allen Ginsberg, whose coterie name-dropping and paratactical fragments many later poets came to imitate. Rather than salvaging the communal aspect of art, however, it created an ever-wider divide between poets and other members of society, as poets explored their ideas and themes in language that was intentionally exclusive or offensive.
Over the past 20 years, poets and critics have addressed this problem with increasing regularity. In his 1991 essay for The Atlantic, Dana Gioia was one of the first to evaluate poetry’s “subculture” and offer a number of suggestions for how it might escape it. One of Gioia’s proposals was that poets should make more use of radio: “Mixing poetry with music on classical and jazz stations,” he wrote at the time, “or creating innovative talk-radio formats could re-establish a direct relationship between poetry and the general audience.”
Read the full article here.