Friday, April 4, 2008

World Poetry versus American Poetry

It has been said that Americans are the most isolated people in the world because they dwell thousands of miles away from everyone else separated by oceans. I think this is BS since Brazilians, Argentines and Indians dwell as far away as Americans do and they are not isolated.

I think that in our poetics in the USA our problem is American Exceptional ism. World Poetry is in dialogue with the globe American poetry is not.

A good example of this is that there is a profound dialogue between Brazilian poets that I know and some American literary stars like Charles Bernstein but this need to encounter the world has not trickled down to poets at lower rungs.

A recent Myopic Reading here in Chicago featured poets Mark Tardi and Daniel Borzutsky who have done great translation work.
Aufgabe and Circumferance Magazines do a great job but I think
thousands of Americans get MFA's each year and only a small
minority read world literature. We spend too much time facebooking and blogging and not enough time reading.

I had a great conversation last month with Kristen Dykstra a professor at Illinois State who manages Mandorla. Prof. Dykstra has foregone her poetry to do this important work of bringing Latin American poetry to the USA. But the problem is much deeper. MFA programs are predicated on specialization. They are like MBA's for writers they remove broad knowledge in favor of craft. These programs normally do not encourage deep reading and they feed a culture of specialization that is unreal- I wonder how many budding poets quit to get real jobs? Wasting the money they spent on the MFA.

As a business person I have always been attracted to European business people because they are so diverse. I have known global business leaders who are sculptors, painters and poets. This is a real rarity in the USA. But diversity of thought is also a real rarity among American poets.
I can think of only a few younger poets who are interested in these things; John Tipton, William Allegrezza, Johannes Gorensson, Mark Tardi, Jen Hofer, Jen Scappettone, Kristin Dykstra while there are so many working on their own work which in many cases will be read by only a few people within our poetic world.

I think the challenge is to expand that poetic world to more. America's influence is weaker in a global world and we need to embrace that the world has allot to offer. Deep reading is what is needed and less poetic politicking. In the end the game players will win but at least I have made my argument for reading more, writing better and maybe talking less about ourselves.