Monday, June 16, 2014

A member of an exclusive club?

June 26, 1980

I’ve had this conversation before with the poetry elite on campus: although all poets may be equal, some poets are more equal than others.
This is basically what I got from last night’s reading up at the college, and a little more salt rubbed in an already open wound when it comes to who gets included in events like this.
I have problem with the Club 54 mentality that picks and chooses who gets into the inner circle, although I understand fully why it happens.
I get invited inside all the time – like I did with the St. Mark’s poetry crowd, who at the same time tried to exclude Michael. But this only gives me a deeper understanding of the old Groucho Marx saying: “I wouldn’t be part of anything that would have me as a member.”
I also hate pretension the way Poe did, and such gatherings are often soaked so deep with pretentious people, I keep reaching for a can of roach spray.
This was particularly true at this event in which the most pretentious poets got up before the most pretentious audience and read the most pretentious of poems.
One of the organizers read his work with such conviction I could only picture him as an ant stirring up an army of ant urging them to wage war, filling in each line with well-worn phrases I’ve heard uttered from his lips more than once.
I don’t question his conviction, only his lack of sympathy for the unwashed masses (from which I sprang), and his talk about how not all poets are “the same” or “deserving of attention,” this at a school in which all the excluded poets pay tuition, not some private party.
Even Roland, that West New York fellow I thought of as warm, fell in with the in-crowd once he received his invitation.
Roland was always different to me, someone with something to say, things he wants to do, people he needs to reach. He believes in love and pain, people and things. It’s just that he wants more, something beyond just the ordinary, something mystical that he can grab onto without much suffering or labor, and as a result suffers more and works harder for less. He once told me that he prefers the devil to god, and that he is destined to become a fallen angel. Much of this I get from his art.
Maybe art is an exclusive club.
I always presumed that if you work hard enough at anything, and get the right exposure, you can go pretty much anywhere you wanted – and that places like this because the breeding ground for new artists, places where they can safely expose themselves without fear of being put down.
But clearly I am wrong. Part of the lesson of surviving as an artist is how to handle being rejected by your so-called superiors, and learning to eat the dirt such superiors kick into your face in the name of art.
Of course, some poets are better than others, and the good poets will go on to achieve something in their lives if they are lucky.
But every artists should have a right to be heard, and I guess the best way to deal with snobs is to create an alternative universe where they – we – can have voice.

No comments:

Post a Comment