I really don’t like much contemporary poetry. I try to read the journals. I’ll find new ones and subscribe for a few months. I’ll check out new popular poets that i read about. But nothing keeps my interest. I’m mostly doing it to keep in practice. And often, after I’ve read contemporary poetry, I’ll immediately reach for something older afterwards, like a palette cleanser, as if to remind me what I’m searching for, to remind me why I love reading poetry in the first place.
I’m not sure why I don’t like much of what gets written today. I find it’s not the case with any other art I enjoy. I like new films, new music, new novels. I enjoy the old and the new equally in those cases, and I find one better than the other. But poetry is different.
Partly I blame academia, which is the sole arbiter of the poetic kingdom, much like Hollywood is of the movies. Poetry is intimately connected with the universities, with MFAs and writer’s workshops. And while it’s an old refrain to blame the writing mills of the universities, as someone who’s been in them myself, I think I have some experience to be able to comment on them.
I recently watched a Ted Talk on the uniformity of college application essays, how students have to churn out the same formulaic essay about overcoming an adversity in their life in order to be considered for admission. They write what they think the admissions board wants to hear. I feel like the same is true of poetry workshops, and of the kinds of books that get published by the university presses. It’s the same voice, the same content, what is most easily recognizable. The Poet is supposed to bear their rawest emotions, seasoned with appropriate wryness and turn of phrase, wrapped up in something like an identity. Or it must be airy nothing. The clippings of musings that point toward a mirage that, upon closer inspection, turns out to be nothing.
I’m dying for a wholly original voice with an authoritative point of view on things.