Janie Dresser, writing at the San Francisco Poetry Examiner, responds to Anis Shivani's HuffPo piece on the "truth about American Poetry," which we posted about not too long ago (Shivani maintained that it was in very bad shape). Dresser was among those provoked, saying that Shivani is "quickly earning a reputation as the blow-hole who keeps stinking up the sea." Woah! In other words:

I ususally don't get provoked enough to bother commenting on the blogs of others--they are merely opinions--but Shivani's recent diatribe, and the fact he gets the nod from the liberal Huffington Post, really made my teeth hurt. One of the things Shivani concludes is that the poetry in America is in the potty and that the "real" poets need to go on some kind of massive "strike" against the mediocrity he sees. Trouble is, Shivani is so hellbent on tearing down, he doesn't do much to contribute to building up. Here's my comment:

"To build a reputation on trashing the justly earned reputation­s of poets who have been helping others write for decades is at best a folly, at worst a despicable occupation­. I know well the work of the authors Shivani characteri­zes as trash; each has contribute­d gorgeous and valuable poems to our canon and assisted thousands of students. Levine, in particular­, chose a working-cl­ass state university as his work-site, eschewing positions at Harvard (Shivani's alma mater), Yale or other elitist schools tailored to stroke the egos of the privileged­.
"'Strike,' indeed! Only an armchair activist could throw that match onto a literary pyre; any one working hard to make ours a culture rich in art and humanitari­an institutio­ns, knows that the hard slog, the community of workshops and readings is where the revolution resides. Check your labor history, Mr. S.: a strike is often the last choice as it brings the harshest punishment­s . . . not something working-cl­ass people entertain lightly.

"This is a literary boom-time: anyone can get a book out. But the taste-make­rs are confounded by the sheer democracy that has prevailed (Whitman would be loving our present moment)! Broad imaginatio­ns, inventive work, committed writers DO exist; they just aren't all being underwritt­en by liberal-le­aning journals. There is a word in political circles--a­gent provocateu­r--a figure rarely interested in the good of the many as he manipulate­s language, derides the positive. . . all to his own ends."

Originally Published: August 27th, 2011