Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When poets are treated too much like royalty.


Part of the purpose of my writing this blog is to expose nonpoets to how poetry communities (or at least the ones in Los Angeles and Orange County) carry out their tribal business.

Rick Lupert is a much-lauded poet from Los Angeles.  And, for better or worse, his every book is wildly praised (whether the book in question happens to merit it or not).  And, also for better or worse, he's hosted a reading for quite a long time in Canoga Park (plus the almost-as-long-running Poetry SuperHighway site), giving him Important Person status.

Regarding Rick as a poet, I think his best books (I'M A JEW, ARE YOU?, LIZARD KING OF THE LAUNDROMAT, MOWING FARGO, FEEDING HOLY CATS) are pretty much behind him.  But, admittedly, a great "selected poems" volume could be compiled of his best post-FARGO work.

But one is not supposed to say these things about Rick Lupert in public because 98% of the poetry community thinks of him as a lovable, funny I-riff-on-myself-and-those-around-me poet, a Nice Guy and as someone whose favor is courted by poets.
Unlike some, I can have two minds about certain people.  As a poet-entertainer, Rick's to be admired for quick wit and great timing and delivery.  I'm a bit more dubious about the merits of kissing his feet, though.

And, between Marie Lecrivain and G. Murray Thomas' recent bouquets of rapture for Rick's WE PUT THINGS IN OUR MOUTHS, I'm cynical enough to think at least part of this praise is motivated by poetry politics and wanting to be "in" with the Nice Important Guy.

In closing, I know it's an occupational hazard for poets to review the books of their friends.  I just wish that, if they refuse to recuse themselves, they can at least maintain some respectful distance (praising what's good and being tactfully analytical of what doesn't quite work).

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