Poetry has always had two sides. For every innovator using language to change the human condition there is a cold elitist assuring us that they have the secret sauce to poetic virtue. Last weekend in Chicago the City put on an event at the Harold Washington Library that was a poetry trade show and a reading. Our press Cracked Slab Books participated. Across town at the Art Institute the Chicago Poetry Project put on a great seminar series on the great poet Robert Duncan.
The Duncan event headlined Michael Palmer and Nathanael Mackey among others and was a tour de force of poetic lights. The event at the Harold Washington Library was decidedly more populist. There were Slammers galore and many of those "regional" writers who more aptly should be called "Bad" Writers. But while I would love to be counted in the Duncan crowd it is really not where i belong. It seems that many of Chicago's Duncan devotees are too fine for a normal poet like myself.
There are plenty of poets with whom the average person can identify. I have come to love Kenneth Rexroth and I have admired and loved Robert Creeley's work for many years. And of course the king of the elitists Ezra Pound. But it seems that poetry will always be divided and that is okay just so the elitists and the populists both remember that everyone else could care less about our poetic conversation.