Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Michael Greenspan
Dear Editor,

Robert Archambeau’s very interesting essay on why poets lean left reminds me of two other pieces, both of which Archambeau may already be familiar with. The first, “‘Poetic’ Evening,” is by Mark Goldblatt, a professor at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Goldblatt, no great fan of modern poetry, suggests that with objective standards for poetry (rhyme, meter, form) largely discarded, “brownnosing, rather than craft, becomes the poet’s stock and [sic] trade.” Lacking the traditional criteria for assessing poets’ work, poets and publishers need some means of judging one another, and so leftist political beliefs “function as conversational currency.”

The second is “Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?” by the philosopher Robert Nozick. Nozick’s theory resembles Archambeau’s idea that in contemporary society:
the educated feel pressure to accept work of a sort other than that for which they’d trained, ending up with increased job dissatisfaction and an attendant growth in alienation, which often manifests itself as a more radicalized politics.
Nozick proposes that success in school leaves “wordsmiths” expecting comparable success in “the wider market society.” He writes:
There the greatest rewards did not go to the verbally brightest. There the intellectual skills were not most highly valued. Schooled in the lesson that they were most valuable, the most deserving of reward, the most entitled to reward, how could the intellectuals, by and large, fail to resent the capitalist society which deprived them of the just deserts to which their superiority ‘entitled’ them?

I find all three theories plausible, which indicates to me that I’m either impressively open-minded or too persuadable to make an effective editor. Or perhaps both.

Bronx, New York

Originally Published: January 30, 2009

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This prose originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2009

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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