I wrote a blog-post last week about poetry and poet's responses to the Great Recession moment. One poet who commented was my friend Sina Queyras- oh if only there were more poets like her..I got some comments from poets whose work has always been a response to our current situation but going back to the essay I quoted by Eliot Weinberger one of the issues that has made the 30 year Reagan Revolution that caused this meltdown has been that intellectuals and thinkers gave up on fighting for what we believe in and retreating into Volvo laden comfort.
I have critiqued many American poets and writers and their penchant for intellectual masturbation. It is funny that this summer that Poetry Magazine chose to do issues on Flarf and Conceptual poetry. If ever there was a corporate confirmation of where the powers that be want poetry to dwell here it is this fact.
I look around at my poetic brethren and I wonder when someone is going to use their great gifts to challenge our societies values and create a challenge to the Ayn Randization of verything. In other regions poets and intellectuals have been an important challenge to these types of policies.
In Latin America Conservatives in the US forced Neo-Liberal economics on developing nations. The only country where this worked was Chile and even there poverty grew. In
other nations it resulted in disaster. But other nations most markedly Brazil under President Lula DeSilva said no. They spent money on people and they have a growing economy. Brazilian intellectuals and poets were part of these discussions.
Throughout the 1970's 80' and 90's Conservatives systematically dismantled Education, Labor Unions, Universities, and every other bulwark against the current situation we find our selves in.
Our response as writers and poets was to retreat into our own world ignoring these realities. The real poetry of those times was written in Flint. Michigan and Kannapolis, North Carolina not Iowa City and Berkeley . No one listened to the real poetry - and no one listened to the poetry written in Iowa City or Berkeley either.
I now sit here as a poet within this Great Recession.
I am dealing with the realities of this Great Recession --every morning I wake up and every night before I go to sleep. I see good honest people watching their lives melt away and I wonder is there a John Steinbeck or Cesar Vallejo out there writing?
Or are they writing about something that will get them published in small magazines and jobs in MFA programs? I wonder why our greatest minds did not say anything years ago? or why no one listened to those who did?
I for one am listening and what I hear is a deafening silence...