Over the past few weeks there have been a screed of writings about poetry in Chicago on line. Kent Johnson a critic and poet has written an article on Digital Emunction that is posted above about the "New Chicago School" and poet Adam Fieled has insisted that he first coined this term but actually the term was first coined in 2005 by Chicago poet Tim Yu at the Midwest MLA. Of course it is a right of passage to be yelled at by Adam but I still like him...
Johnson's point is that there is all this poetic dynamism in Chicago and that it is important to American letters in total. But this reality is refuted by the recent issue of Granta that has been lauded all over the place as if Chicago needed an imprimatur from this British neo-elitist magazine?
Lets give Granta its due. When it comes to intellectual serious fiction they do an OK job and we all love Stuart Dybek and Aleksandar Hemon and find them compelling but when it comes to poets? ... give me a break...Look Anne Winters and Reginald Gibbons are fine poets and well established poetic members of our community but why would you include them only in an issue about Chicago?
There are at least 30 poets writing in Chicago an environs who have books out from serious presses in all poetic genres. From Peter O'Leary(Duncanesque) to Kevin Coval (Spoken Word) we have well known and respected poets who should have been included.
Maybe one less essay by Don De Lillo (NY I think) would have allowed Granta to include these younger vital Chicago voices? Or was the goal a characterature of Chicago for a British audience?
Forget about poetic tribes here for a moment. In this critique whether you are an Experimento, Slammer, Neo Black Arts, Latino/a or other group member you have been excluded from an issue that is supposed to be about "Chicago Literary Culture" and you have been doubly excluded because the Poetry Foundation is hosting a reading for Granta here that excludes you as well.
In this issue of Granta there is an article on Chicago Gangsters, as if other cities do not have them but there is nothing about Chicago poets and the vitality of our community. Now, I know that poetry does not sell and does not matter and that we should be satisfied that there are a couple of poems thrown in for good measure. But, I am not satisfied with this set of omissions. If you want to find the literary dynamism in Chicago it is in Poetry that you will find it and I don't mean Poetry the magazine.
But we as poets in Chicago continue to have our little fights among ourselves instead of building the literary institutions that we need in this city to create a literary culture that is sustainable. We argue about who first coined the term "new chicago school" which is a stupid waste of time
Why aren't we building real institutions?
Why is it that our MFA programs are not challenged to help build?
Why is it that the Chicago Review has done an issue on German Poetry but nothing on Chicago? Why is it that Cracked Slab Books the small press that we run on a shoe string published an anthology of Chicago poetry while Northwestern University press and U of Chicago press chose not to do so?So perhaps we should be ignored until we are more serious and build something that lasts in this city to support our poets and their work?
One's own writing is his/her own business but the work of building a literary culture is more than writing. Until we as a community build the kinds of infrastructure that the Theatre community here in Chicago for example has built our place in the Global Literary scene is suspect and weakened by a lack of support and sustainability.
This should be our goal rather than fighting over nomenclature and who mentioned a term in a blog post first.
When it comes to Granta as far as I am concerned they should have listened for vitality instead of stereotypes and I for one will not be attending their coming out party at the Poetry Foundation I think I will go to the Sox game instead.....