Friday, August 08, 2008

No Poetry In Money Either

(art by eddie 2008)

The Operative Word Is “Skillions”

Because of the network of creative writing workshops,
there are skillions of good new young poets each year

...and no money in it.
(Richard Silberg 7/11/08)

So is the world a better place for this?
There was a time I craved coffee houses
with Italian espresso machines
like in North Beach and Greenwich Village,
And it took such a long time
but we got them with a Starbucks
on every block in San Rafael and Stockton,
Coffee so burned that overroasting
became the standard for mediocrity
unchallenged until skillions of MFA
poets competed to cave-dwell
in cramped musty corners —
New Yorker, Poetry, Paris Review,
VQR, Prairie Schooner, Kenyon Review —
And so it goes with coffee and with poetry.

- Ed Coletti / July 2008

The following response comes from friend and wonderful poet Jack Crimmins

Ed, thanks for the ancient Chinese madman poem (See Du Fu's poem below and also Jack Crimmins' poem "The End of Poetry.")! I liken it somewhat to your ancient Open Mike Max madman poem which I think captures City Max very well.

And re "Skillions", it is very interesting to me at this time about the world of poets, poems and money.

The poet Jack Gilbert has said that money ruined poetry, i.e. that the money in it for those who make it; teaching at universities, publishing w/trade presses, big prizes (gary snyder just won $100, 000 from somebody), has made poets keep producing the same work/ same books over and over, when sometimes they had only one good book early on but needed to keep going to make money.

And Silliman cries out that the big publishers keep giving the prizes to writers who publish with their presses, like Robert Haas, cuz it keeps people buying their books.

And money, lack of money, lately has me asking myself questions about my own publishing. Whether to put one's own money into books, then hawk them oneself, and really thinking I probably won't do that much more. There are so many poets now that to find a publisher that is willing to pay for producing a book is a crap shoot, and highly unlikely w/out moving in the right circles, mostly teaching, or some kind of post-avant press world, or getting a huge write-up from Silliman.

Which then makes me question why then write poems except for the joy of it. Jack Gilbert only published a few books, in part saying he thinks publishing takes some of the joy out of poetry. Of course, if one doesn't publish, there is no money, no anything, except the joy of writing.

Which then makes me think, why not go body surfing instead? Anyhow, check out the attached poem.

Best, jack

I Am a Madman

My thatched cottage stands
just west of Thousand Mile Bridge

this Hundred Flower Stream
would please a hermit fisherman

bamboo sways in the wind
graceful as any court beauty

rain makes the lotus flower
even more red and fragrant

but I no longer hear from friends
who live on princely salaries

my children are always hungry
with pale and famished faces

does a madman grow more happy
before he dies in the gutter?

I laugh at myself -- a madman
growing older, growing madder.

- Du Fu (712 - 770)

The End of Poetry

emptiness no emptiness
done again
with words done
fire outside of time
the shallow end
pools of desert water
fool’s gold
a fever
in the mountains
a fortune found
writing again
emptiness no emptiness

~ Jack Crimmins / January 18, 2008

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PAULA said...

Skillions of young poets! What a better world than skillions of soldiers, or are they not, I suppose mutually exclusive? I do have some problem with the writing-workshop-churning-out aspect of the remark, however. To my mind, the sooner we get intellectual life and poetry life etc. at least partially back out of the universities (which, and don't tell my friends who labor there) more and more seem to be "zoos" for poets and thinkers. Setting aside the negatives of universities cum business-centered corporations, as they have more and more come to be, one positive consequence may well be to return a vibrant intellectual life to the world outside the university. As for publishing and money, I thought the point of publishing was to be read (at least by a larger circle than one's own coterie) or at least that's what I would hope for. I think I was once paid $20 for a poem, but I don't think that quite made the rent that month.

Jeanne Powell said...

Good friend, you must change your title. I am convinced we will find money in poetry.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Loving those burned, overroasted poets!

Really liked jack's poem and du fu also - oh, if only those two could have had a couple of belts together ... well, in a way, I guess they just did.

Don @ Lilliput Review