Tuesday, June 26, 2012


The Argotist Online has an interesting series discussing the state of poetry including "Otherstream" (the alternative to mainstream or "Knownstream")--which Jake Berry lucidly presents, in part of course, as

... Otherstream. It is turbulent and chaotic relative to the perspective of the Knownstream, yet it is present in the unlimited margins. To practice art in that space that is not actually a space means to surrender conventional ambition and work in the wilderness. No single description of it is sufficient since it is largely unknown and what is known cannot be determined to be representative. Failure, then, is a given and is the initial experience in this other “space.” To surrender and pass through failure without expectation is the price of admission out.

The series (my term) begins with Berry's essay "Poetry Wide Open: The Otherstream (Fragments In Motion)".  The following poets, critics and academics then respond:

Ivan Arguelles
Anny Ballardini
Michael Basinski
John M. Bennett
John Bradley
Norman Finkelstein
Jack Foley
Bill Friend
Bob Grumman
Bill Lavender
Alan May
Carter Monroe
Marjorie Perloff
Dale Smith
Sue Brannan Walker
Henry Weinfield

You can begin reading the respondents' offerings HERE. I am honored, by the way, to be mentioned in Anny Ballardini's response--thanks Anny! I am just starting to read everyone's response. For now, though, I want to respond to something Jake Berry mentions in his essay. He says others may feel that

It is reasonable to argue that with so much poetry available a gatekeeper is needed. Otherwise one might read, listen or watch for years and never get a sense of which poetry was important and which was insignificant.
Actually, a gatekeeper is not at all required for the reader who is deeply interested in poetry. When I started out, I had no idea who is who or what is what in poetry. So I went to my local Barnes and Noble poetry shelf and just began reading everything on it (yes, it was a limited start but I was starting from Ground Zero at age 35 and with poetry but a faded memory of elementary school assignments). What will happen, if the reader is committed to exploring poetry, is that you begin to determine what you like or dislike and lead your reading more and more to those tendencies you appreciate.  (After some time of learning those tendencies, I had to consciously be sure to continue to remain open to reading others outside of those tendencies because one never knows what will rear up in Poetry--a story for another time).  I didn't/don't need a gatekeeper but found out/find out on my own. My process requires a deeper commitment than the couple of years required to be majoring in poetry or creative writing. It's a daily commitment that continues on today on a daily basis. My approach, however, requires something that takes a lot of time and attention--one might call it Devotion.

Devotion is a much stronger force than a third-party telling you what's what or who is who. Devotion's expanse and the knowledge it will introduce will usually be much larger than any gatekeeper's particular knowledge ... and bias.  It's hard work--no one else can do it for you. You have to do it for yourself--if you abided only by what the gatekeepers say, it's like you asking someone else to do your research for you.  That's the thing about Devotion: there's no shortcut.  So, Poet, suck it up and just read radically.

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