Monday, June 9, 2014

When respected poetry leaders want more respect.

A poet in the Los Angeles community wrote this to me publicly (on Facebook) regarding a poetry venue where I have been banned for almost ten years: "...don't know if you want to read this, but... let it go. There are many other venues in the ocean. Forgiveness doesn't seem to be a trait of [venue hosts]. Too bad.They're missing some good, heart-felt poetry." 

And, of course, I discovered a few weeks later he was featuring at that particular venue.

Yes, I understand careerism.  And I also am aware this poet earned an MFA--partially to open more doors as a teacher and, apparently, to make certain people in the LA/OC/LBC communities look upon him with a greater degree of respect.

The sad truth is that he's probably chasing respect that won't be given to him by some leaders--and is willing to sacrifice self-respect to turn the other cheek to public humiliation in the process.

With some sadness, I unfriended him from Facebook.

Part of the unfriending was motivated by years of my foolishly confiding in him (and being told "I'm in your corner") when I should have known better. 

Around fourteen years ago (well before I took to writing a blog about poetry and other arts/political/personal topics), I asked in a public forum why the Los Angeles Poetry Festival (when it still existed) had such a narrow focus in terms of poets booked.  This was in comparatively halcyon days when many more venues for all kinds of poetry existed.  But yet, to me, it seemed the festival wasn't even trying to reflect the diversity of the city's poets.

You'd think I let a skunk into a garden party to run amok.

I received lots of polite-but-firm rebuttals, perhaps motivated by fear of offending the Major Poet who was head of the LAPF.

And the poet I unfriended was one of those rebutters.

But yet I was clueless and impolitic enough to occasionally ask him for advice or run my minority/contrarian views past him on certain subjects concerning poets and jams I got myself into or discussing certain brutal insults/characterizations tossed at me.

Sometimes, he'd say things to me that indicated he had sympathy for my point of view--agreeing with me that certain people weren't all that.

Nonetheless, he still publicly craved the approval of those poets--and, on occasion, got validation and opportunity from them.

To finish, I have to admit the unfriended poet has, at his best, done a lot of good for the community as a whole.

It's just too bad he's determined to prove the respect he's justly received will never be enough.

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