Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Grand Community of Canadian Poetry

“Despite its bloodlessness, the tradition of literature is a grand community and, much as I envy the happy and the young, I doubt they have as good a one.” (244) This sentence was written by Paul Goodman but I have excerpted it from an essay Hayden Carruth wrote in 1982 entitled “Paul Goodman and The Grand Community”. Unfortunately, the idea of a grand community within the Canadian Poetry circle has largely gone unrealized because of the bickering and back-slapping that has afflicted much of the discussion between Canadian poets online, and has been found too often in our more prominent journals.

For my part, I started this blog with the intention to shine a light on some of the influence-peddling and invisible ties between poet-critics who were busily trumpeting one aesthetic stance over another while castigating their fellow poets who were doing other work. I have tried to speak honestly and openly about such matters, even when it was unfashionable, or when I was told the “blow-back” of such talk would certainly negatively impact how people perceive me. I was asked by one person did I really want to poke the bear? I did this all because I wanted poets to stop resurrecting garrisons and have the ability to engage in authentic conversations, allowing for the free play of mind and heart, without such talk being co-opted by a handful of voices.

Then this week an announcement George Murray has launched a new poetry site called New Poetry which is meant to help tear down these garrisons and to build bridges between the members of our fractured community. At first, I was suspicious of George’s motives because when I was calling for more accountability and critical stewardship late last year, and being publicly pilloried for it, George was skeptical of such change. I don’t know what has changed for him but obviously it is for the better.

I was not asked to join his new editorial board but a whole host of other people were. Some of those people are what I would call the usual suspects while other faces make me excited to see what fruit this new site will bear. If poets are willing to put down their swords and pound them into ploughshares, then I whole-heartedly support such an endeavour. Hopefully, this is a sign of authentic change and a movement towards that grand community everyone wishes for and can envision.

I quoted a little statement Philip Levine said in his essay “Two Journeys” before on my blog, and doubtlessly I will do it again because it is something I need to be reminded of, and I believe needs to be said aloud. Levine says, “I believe the truth is we form a family with other poets, living and dead, or we risk going nowhere”.

As for myself, I believe if we break good faith with our colleagues then we have no one else to blame if we find ourselves muttering poems to an empty room. I am not sure if I will continue this blog. It appears to have served its purpose.