And yet poetry as an industry is just as ridiculous as any other industry. Just as much a game: CVs, MFAs, bios, blogs, open mics, cover letters, conferences, colonies, grants, awards, networking, politicking, policing… I don’t care if you’re an academic poet, a street poet, or an underground poet. I don’t care if you’re the Poet Laureate or the Poet Lariat or the poet Harriet, who has a 160 poems in four different themes in a three-ring binder on her desk. It’s all a joke. It’s an egotistical, megalomaniacal, self-aggrandizing, back scratching, crotch-stroking, fist pumping joke. When I see a bio listing 104 “credits,” including Poetry and Triquarterly and the New England Review, I don’t think, Wow, that’s a real poet. I think, Wow, that’s a lot of postage. When I see the same poet reading the same poem over and over again to the same audience at every open mic in town, there’s no room to wonder about the transaction — the only one gaining something is you, gaining a captive audience for content that wouldn’t hold up through a dinner conversation.
You want fame, you want attention, you want respect. That’s all the game is about. It’s 28,000 submitters and 2,800 subscribers. It’s an audience of 30 at a poetry reading, and 20 of them thinking only about the poem they’ll read when the host calls their name. It’s a new book every four years because that’s what tenure calls for. And every faction, from the most amateur to the most erudite, thinks they’re the one that’s doing it right. It’s all the same silly enterprise.