Saturday, April 28, 2007

The poetry jihad continues.

A few posts back, I mentioned the differences between the local poetry community's distaste for "negativity" and the raucous back-and-forth found on a film blog I occasionally post comments to:

In the poetry community, listserves are now kept pure and decorous with miscreants often banned for arguing with other poets.  Sometimes banishment can be avoided as long as you're not criticizing a poet on his/her listserve.  And raucous disagreements of the HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE variety aren't found since some poets running listserves scrutinize every post for evil and perfidy, or the potential for evil, before allowing them--leading to listserves mostly being filled with poets announcing their upcoming readings.

Perhaps the difference between the poetry and film communities is this: the film community is more secure in commenting on an art form that is consumed by millions of people while the poetry community (at least in L.A., counting a few hundred poets who are active) practices an art form that pays very little, if anything, and isn't often heard outside its tribe.  Therefore, a hemophiliac level of hypersensitivity exists, leading people to think that silencing naysayers/stifling dissent is being protective of their brothers and sisters.  If this mania for avoiding "hurtfulness" could be channeled into, say, more intervenue (two readings crossing over to each other's venues--as was done years back with Beyond Baroque and The World Stage) reading events, the community would be better off.  Instead, there's the grim humor of witnessing socially-conscious progressives going into contortions to justify censoring "negativity" of others while complaining when they are censored themselves.

And, just when I was looking forward to a brighter future, I discovered that someone who will be nameless had a poem published in a poetry hosts' anthology (which I also contributed to).  The poem was a "found" piece, stringing together various comments I made on a listserve I'm no longer part of.  Some of those comments are regrettable (and I've tried to apologize to the person concerned); the others are removed from their original context and arranged to condemn me for changing my mind (i.e. going back and forth) about whether or not to be a "good citizen" of local poetry.

But what was most bothersome was that the poem strongly implied that I had no business being a host of a poetry reading in a public venue.

I've had three readings at Coffee Junction and am looking forward to the fourth next month.  I've done my best to keep the poets and the venue owner satisfied.  And I hope to keep the reading going--expanding the audience and the various types of poets booked there.

And the person who wrote the poem is invited to come too.  Though I may dislike the poem and its implications, there will be no turned-off mike and no ejection if he chooses to read it at Coffee Junction.

I still believe in freedom of speech, even though sensitivities--including my own--may be occasionally bruised.

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