Saturday, April 23, 2005

Fooey! (II)

Double ugh. I was trying to reserve judgment on Alan Cordle's intentions, but I now see that the blast of embarrassing publicity the NYT article generated has encouraged him not to crawl into a hole (which I would probably do) but to bring Foetry roaring back--cringeworthy sign-offs notwithstanding.

It's all too obvious at this point that Foetry's methods, which claim to expose poetry's reduction to personal politics, have simply exacerbated that reduction. In both the real, evil poetry world and the mirror image Foetry creates, poets are nothing but conglomerations of connections, pedigrees and power. Foetry is the poetry world's loyal opposition: it reduces literary power to its crudest terms, and envies that power rather than seeking to offer an alternative. In that respect, at least, Thursday's foolish NYT article is correct: in the world as seen through Foetry, poets are a bunch of craven buffoons, madly scrambling for scraps that no one else cares about.

Ron is right: Foetry is just asking the wrong questions. Its "critique" has nothing to do with aesthetics, economics, or politics, but with the fantasy of any contest entrant anywhere: had things been "fair," I would have won.

"Objective" literary judgment? Come on. There's no such thing. I say that not because I think all judgments are just effects of power, but because I know that much of the contemporary poetry I value is precisely the kind that the "objective" judgment of the "best" critics says is bad.

Do the work you believe in. If you can win a Yale Younger Poets' prize by doing it, great. If not, either wait for future generations to discover your greatness or find other ways of getting things done: find other, better journals and presses, or start your own.

The crazy thing, as Ron and many others have pointed out, is that recognition in major contests is an utterly debased currency: given the invisibility of poetry in the major media and journals, you're likely gaining less of an audience (and certainly a less informed one) than by being published by a good small press.

Bottom line: Foetry changes nothing. Poets asked to be judges will pick poems in the orbit of their own aesthetic; that aesthetic is inevitably linked to the institutional contexts (universities, MFA programs, presses and journals) in which those poets exist; so even if you have a truly "blind" contest the same folks will keep winning. The rise of the MFA program just makes this process slightly more predictable. All Foetry does is give those who already possess power the ability to feel persecuted.

Which is to say: bring it on, Jimmy. Poetry needs you.

3 comments: said...

Perhaps the best analysis of the foetry affair that I've come across.

* said...

Yo, what does poetry need from me, Tim?

Let's see a Blue Jays game this summer.

Poetry already owes me a blowjob, at least.


Jehza said...

Great comments on the charade. I've managed to escape feeling sorry for Jorie Graham. But I'm still annoyed with Cordle.