Today I stumbled onto ActionBooks.org, in that way that, you know, that people do. I immediately became intrigued* by the work of Lara Glenum, author of the poetry collection, The Hounds of No. I found her blog and discovered that she is reading in New York this Saturday afternoon. I am definitely going to go! Lately, I am crazy about poetry. Along with the paperback novella, it's the quintessential form for the new age.
Speaking of poetry, the other day I started wondering what Poetry magazine did with all those millions of dollars that Ruth Lilly left, so I poked around Poetry's exquisitely staid website for about a minute; the answer: mostly fellowships and boring things. A one-year subscription to the print edition of the magazine (the only form of the publication; things are already less than heartening) is thirty-five dollars! Absurd. Why not send anyone who signs up a free text message with a new poem every day? Or free downloadable poetry ringtones? That would be brilliant. Or at least, a start. Even worse, in this article written at the time of the bequest:
First, says Cummins, Poetry wants to create a library for serious scholars and the public, with a collection that would rival universities. Second, the new foundation plans to start a teachers' institute. The pilot program would invite select middle- and high-school teachers to "a total immersion experience" in Chicago, where master poets would introduce them to modern poetry. Eventually, poets could take the program across the US.
The third goal is to publish more books through Poetry's imprint, Poetry Press, including textbooks, work by emerging writers, and reprints of overlooked collections.
It is, indeed, an ambitious plan...
I wholeheartedly disagree. That's quite a depressing vision for the future of poetry, if indeed its fate lies in such inept and clumsy hands. Why does Poetry feel the need to "rival universities"? Last time I checked, the central challenge facing so-called high culture lay in issues of Demand, not Supply. Why not use such a grand sum of money to expand the Market for Poetry (and nay, poetry)? How does a fiery love of the form spark in the hearts of people under 20, tomorrow's guardians of poetry, within the appallingly narrow parameters of this vision? What role does the Internet, new technology, innovative methods of communication and diffuse and now no longer monolithic media sources play? The sad conclusion: Poetry's plan is hardly "ambitious" even by 19th Century standards.