Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Poets, belonging and joining/leaving "poetry gangs."

Years ago, I upset a female poet (who was then quite prominent and now re-emerging onto the scene after several years' absence) with some ill-chosen, less-than-tactful words about what I thought was a too-narrow booking for an event being held in Silverlake.

She mentioned to me, among other things, that she (and, implied, her peers) were in the process of accepting me and my poetry (i.e. I had a Beyond Baroque Sunday feature--plus a Valley Contemporary Poets feature--at that point)--and how could I be so impolitic to be critical and ill-mannered to her (my wife and I had attended a couple of holiday parties at her then-home on the Westside).

To be fair, she was right about a few things (I very much wish I had handled the matter more delicately if I was going to risk censure by questioning her booking policies in public and private).  And, over the years, on numerous occasions, I've been made to feel like John Milton's version of Satan, cast out of Heaven, where good and decent (once you've fulfilled all the social and artistic demands) poets reign.

Unfortunately, the problem is that, once you're in (or at least within a few miles of) Heaven, you discover that Heaven's a lot like Earth.

Poets still complain about other poets: I remember a current doyenne of the scene once complaining to a male poet/tastemaker last year about how a third poet didn't deserve all the features he was receiving at the time.

And I still have lingering less-than-positive memories of a poets' panel at Beyond Baroque years ago where abundant pleasure was taken in criticizing-verging-on-mockery-of the misfits of L.A. poetry.  The mitigating factor (if there was one) was that the alleged miscreants weren't mentioned by name.  But most everyone in the Beyond Baroque theater knew exactly which people were being gossiped about.

The moral of this collection of anecdotes: The grass is the same color on either side of the fence.  Just keep writing--and hope that what you do during your lifetime survives in at least one other person's memory after your demise.

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