November 15, 2009
All literary periods decline into coteries, with poets and writers attempting to shore up one another. In fact, it’s part of human nature, to herd together, huddle for warmth, comfort, create a department. The weak and cowardly are especially given to this impulse. While it increases what passes with many for survival, those who go out of the cave in pursuit of the Real are the ones who slay the Beast, ultimately providing provender for the fearful and vulnerable.
That is what all the great poets and writers did. Rabelais and Cervantes, Melville and Robert Frost, many others, into their heart and soul, not some contemptible university or creative writing program and the subsidies that keep their seemingly hegemonic dominance afloat.
I first subscribed to Poets & Writers when it was the earliest incarnation of a newsletter, the name of which escapes me now, in the 1970s. It was evident even then, to me, that a coterie was forming, analogous to so many, as with the Provencal poets, Japanese literature from time to time, and elsewhere. That it has become the rapacious monster that it has is no surprise, known to all, who are discerning. I have thought for decades that there is only one way to slay it. The test and ordeal of the spirit that the greatest writers have always had to face and go through. That of writing the book that overturns the entire prevailing outlook, as Cervantes did with all the cloying works of chivalry. In other words, it must be earned through perseverance (Johnson on Shakespeare), diligence, independent study, confronting the darkness in one’s own soul and time, and the blessings of the Muse.
Nothing could be more contrary to the cynical, contemptible university system of patronage and extortion of public funds, by poetry bureaucrats, which passes for literature today. All the more reason that the lone, solitary writer, dedicated to the literary tradition of what is the most noble and true in human nature, seeking the truth, not tenure, service, not the approval of parasites, can, as Saul Bellow phrased it once, bury them, and reorient aright the great ship of literature.
Original post, comment #3, Scarriet, TENETS of FAITH: Being Right on the AWP, BAP, P&W, AoAP and even the PFoA