I spend too much time reading, online, the history of various recent absurd public feuds in the poetry community. It makes them seem kind of spoiled, in comparison to what people in theater have to put up with.
How can they be so viciously and publicly angry at each other when they don’t have tech?
They don’t have set budgets?
They don’t have certain words in their poems who can only show up to the revisions on Tuesdays and Fridays and other words who are only available on Wednesdays and Saturdays and other words who just had their car repossessed and really need a ride to the rewrite session?
They don’t have to worry about paying a cast of eight and a staff of twenty a living wage – or, as was more often the case for me, not being able to pay those people anything close to what they were worth, and still asking them to work for you? And to work themselves, sometimes, into illness or injury?
They don’t have to “load in” and “load out” their poems on a three-month poem tour of the Southwestern states?
They don’t have to write enormous grants to subsidize the cost of their poetry production?
They don’t have to resign themselves to full-time careers as “poetry administrators” in order to have influence, financial stability, or any kind of presence in the field?
In short, what are they so angry about when they get to make their art for nothing more than the cost of a piece of paper?
And I have to laugh every time I hear a poet complaining about poetry not having an audience. Folks, if you want to see “not having an audience,” you should try producing 99-seat theater in Los Angeles. Poetry is pinging and poking and pervading itself across the blogosphere and the Netograph and the InterTextene Conferences with the ease of a keystroke and a backslash. Poetry is everywhere. It’s text-based, for heavens’ sakes. You can circulate it with nothing more than the same tools being used to circulate everything. You don’t have to videotape it, get permission from the Words’ Union, get the rights for the music, pay or exploit a videographer, edit it, to put it online. All you have to do is TYPE. And the poem you write in Chicago or Dallas or Hoboken or Eugene can be read, in seconds, by people in Palintown and Bidenville, at the same time.
I am also learning that poetry, having a large national audience in a way that theater doesn’t (i.e., although more people numerically may see a particular play than may read a poem, that smaller audience for the poem has a wider geographic distribution) has a stickier and more public version of snark. Even people who don’t read poetry read the poetry arguments. The text, snipertextual, has a way of hanging around.
I suppose that under all this speculation and comparison is a level of curiosity as to what will happen when I begin making my own mistakes in this field. Theater is a great art form in which to make a lot of big mistakes, because no matter how public they may be at the time, no one remembers them even one month later. Write a bad poem, and publish it, and I think you never get rid of it. That’ll be interesting.