Sunday, April 6, 2008
In Praise of Anti-National Poetry Month
So it's NatPoMo! Heather hates it when I call it that. But she also hates it when I talk about PoBiz (that distinctly academic animal where poets swap influence for prizes and positions). Naturally her frustration only encourages me to sing my praises to NatPoMo louder.
Listening to Weekend America, though, keyed me into those who do not enjoy our god-given poetry month. These critics, chief among them Charles Bernstein, say that NatPoMo is a sham that does a disservice to the poetry it ignores because it says to the public most poetry is difficult though there is some good, "easy-listening" poetry out there that wont hurt your head too much, a kind of Flintstone's vitamin poetry. This approach hurts challenging poetry but also the poetry it promotes because it sells it as facile and safe. It also smacks of condescension to give poetry a month as if without it the art form would disappear from irrelevance (Note: there is no National Film Month). Consider for example that the other celebration months we honor like Black History Month or Women's History Month have their critics who say why relegate the achievements of African Americans and women to only one month a year? Why consign the celebration of poetry to one month?
Also with the recent dangers of poetry exposed, can we in good conscience continue to push this art on people? Personally, it's worth it just so I can say: have a happy NatPoMo, everyone!
(pictured: A cartoon called "Stone Cold Poetry Bitches" by Jim Behrle.)