Friday, July 10, 2015

Comment on Bradenton Poet's Echo Chamber

The trigger for this piece of writing was a pseudo-personal public update published on the social-media echo-chamber of Florida Bradenton's Bethany Pope.

In the past two decades the publishing model has been utterly inverted. We've gone, historically speaking, very briefly from one extreme to the other. From a highly talented and committed handful of poetry writing lovers specially accepted and supported by the even rarer and more expert god-like Poetry Editor, to a come all ye everyone is now an hour and a handful of clicks away from qualifying as a bona fide published poet.

Exponential hoards of newly qualified-by-social-media poet-publishers selling wares, that range from excruciating doggerel to the work of arch spacers with decades in the ultra-competitive faery language game. That, when engaged with consistently and methodically, leads, by a process of mathematical luck, chance, happenstance, and regular spontaneous speculative discourse; to the authentic ineffable and prophetic source of the aboriginal unconsciousness.

At which one can sit, sue and prosecute the theoretical cases and judge, contemplate, and ask the oracle simple existential questions of material and spiritual life. And from which one draws the parallel self-reflective series of trial and error correct and wrong answers, that, cumulatively accrue into a discernible pattern, process, and strand of critically accurate practice successfully mapping the contours of our singular mind 'closest to thought'. Speaking in one's own voice. You. The published poet. Everyone.

Twenty years ago if one wanted to become a published poet, as the Limerick Newcastle West poet Michael Hartnett, who introduced me to the 'closest to thought' concept - knew: it took a lot of extremely hard work and dedication. Writing writing writing until eventually one is writing so much a voice readers recognise emerges. And though the odds were more than one in a thousand against a fairy god-editor plucking from a slush pile, the first manuscript you sent out; when you plug away one eventually connected with a coterie of like-minded poetry lovers and writers, producing, when compared with today, a tiny amount of store-quality poetry publications.

The whole business of getting a manuscript into printed book form was far more expensive and time-consuming than now. Someone wanting to publish their own books twenty years ago would spend years learning the many different and specialised roles needed to turn a hand or type-written fistful of poems, to a shiny new attractive publication. And the vast majority of poetry books that were published, unless it was by a corporate press, had very little-to-nothing in the way of advertising and getting the word out even regionally about their poems for sale.

It was a very socially lonely time for most poets, unlike today; with no way - unless one had millions of pounds to buy air time and pay for commercials - of reaching in print the millions of book-buying people all over the globe we take for granted are the audience and customers we can instantly connect with today. And all the things that were then in the hands of a very few globally powerful editors, are now at the fingertips of everyone. We are, finally, all on a level playing field, professionally, in relation to the publishing and business side of selling poems; because anyone with an internet connection can decide we are an independent po-biz editor, and within hours be publishing and selling books worldwide. We can create in a week what previously took years of dedicated continual studious slog and constant rejection, coupled with years of experience and learning. Not to mention many thousands of pounds, and tens of thousands of hours of writing. And the powerful attraction to that profoundly playful source of our own writing, which we're blessed to be born with in the digital age 

There has been a revolution throughout the world, in publishing, and culturally, in the way we communicate, and in how one can present ourself in public as someone whose language the Reader can trust the words of when it comes to English poetry.

If one is English, it helps, when speaking, virtually, in America, to drop the reserve, one finds, and get stuck in trolling and trash-talking with fellow Americans in that uniquely global capitalist poetic culture we share online. When one restricts one's vision to the purely domestic realms, the free back and forth conversational flow rarely reaches the anything-goes post-avant level of linguistic exchange and open craic one experiences when in the thick of debate with fellow N. Americans.

I think this is because we English are very much a product of our birth status in a multi-tiered Class and Honour System, that can be very spiritually challenging and difficult to get our head round when we are one of the 99% of English people born outside it. A child of immigrants, without a title, only with what can be subtly contextualised as that most culturally distasteful of things by posh-sounding snobs performing in letters little more than a disapproving one-line note and tone of voice; the openly working-class English voice speaking from the Republic of English Letters; in which everyone is welcome and free to write whatever the heck ye goddam wanna. Issuing not the short and snarky superior literate ejections that reveal an entire intellectual apparatus built of falsehood, fear and envy; but an honest voice.

Cheers ears.

May your hair grow golden and your heart be filled with joy
May your eyes always see and your ears detect duende
May your mouth sing from the soles of the feet up highest

May your hand and head together make the greatest poetry.

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