Guess Who Hates National Poetry Month?
Well, it’s probably not much of a guessing situation, since I think most of you already knew anyway. But regardless, here you go: Bloggers hate National Poetry Month. Poets hate National Poetry Month. I’m even going to go out on a limb and suggest that there are probably some Joyce Kilmer-reading 6th graders who are hating on National Poetry Month right this very minute.
I read so much commentary about what a bad thing NPM is that I sort of felt like I needed to bring up the fact that I have, actually, listened to and considered these arguments against it. I suspect that most people who have read Charles Bernstein’s essay agree with it at least in part—he’s a funny and wise writer, and his argument probably makes a lot of sense if you’re living in a major city, especially one that offers poetry readings most nights of the week. From Bernstein's essay:
As part of the spring ritual of National Poetry Month, poets are symbolically dragged into the public square in order to be humiliated with the claim that their product has not achieved sufficient market penetration and must be revived by the Artificial Resuscitation Foundation (ARF) lest the art form collapse from its own incompetence, irrelevance, and as a result of the general disinterest among the broad masses of the American People.
The motto of ARF's National Poetry Month is: ‘Poetry's not so bad, really.’
I don’t mean to say that you have to live in a big city to be able to turn your nose up at the idea of a month devoted to poetry. I am pretty sure that if you’re a person who spends a lot of time writing poetry, or reading poetry, or hanging out with poets, then the idea of National Poetry Month sounds stupid, whether you live in Terra Haute or San Francisco. But let’s be honest: to takes a lot more effort to be a full-time poetry fan if you are also a full-time resident of a city lacking a significant university population or growth industry.
And this is why I am a fan of National Poetry Month.
So after all that energy expended toward “everyday” poetry, it was pretty exciting to have Cornelius Eady come to speak at the local community college one April. It was so easy—just sit and listen! I still remember it pretty well. He wore red Converse with his suit—pretty much the height of fashion to us high school poets—and I still have my signed copy of You Don’t Miss Your Water.
Which makes me think. If NPM did that for me, I bet there are more people benefiting from it, at least in tiny way. Just think about it. There’s got to be some long-suffering arts reporter sitting at a newspaper desk in Oklahoma and thanking his lucky stars for National Poetry Month, because it means he has an excuse to run an AP feature on a poet.
So there. Poetry month: pretty freaking great. I appreciate that there are multiple points of view on the subject—actually, I’m thrilled that there are, and not just because I get an extra post out of it—and I’m even sympathetic to the arguments against. But you can stop telling me about Bernstein: I’m here staking my position as firmly PRO. To summarize another poetry blogger (who I can’t link to here directly because of his habit of posting unseemly videos), even if you live and breathe poetry, April just means more readings and discounts on poetry collections. And who can hate on that?