“Fame is a form of incomprehension, perhaps the worst”
—Jorge Luis Borges—
Wendt wandered among the self-satisfied, none of whom were too involved in what the man on stage was saying. So typical of poetry events. Attended not so much to hear the presentation, but to see and be seen at a potentially random historic occasion.
“The academic regime, working through the so called poetry journals, reviews and blogs it controls, has spread over the entire world a deep twilight hostile to every sort of spirited poetry, a twilight of conceptualism and cronyism in which, disguised as poets, they subvert the purpose of the art!
“They, who have made servility a career, of lying for pay an institution, of the palliation of censorship a source of pleasure. The official poetry of the Anglo overlords, with a blatancy unexampled in history, mirrors the effort to put a good face on their disingenuous professions.
“The repugnance which this shameful negation of the principles of poetry inspires in the poetry world should lead to an active and uncompromising condemnation. The opposition of poets, one hundred thousand strong, is one of the forces that can usefully contribute to the discrediting and overthrow of academic totalitarians who are destroying, along with the rights of the poetariat to aspire to better poetry, every scintilla of human dignity and privilege!”
He spotted someone he knew, little Liz Hornet, a diminutive poet with a stinging wit in her familiar yellow jacket, long black scarf looped around her neck and over the shoulder á la Isadora. He was just about to greet her when a laugh and cheer went up from the audience.
“The poetry revolution will not be televised! But it will be readily available on You Tube, Facebook, and any number of revolutionary holdouts as long as there’s a breath to blog!
“The poetry revolution is for the fearless who realize that the role of the poet in a decadent poetry society is determined by the conflict between the individual and various poetry institutions hostile to them! This fact alone, in so far as they are conscious of it, makes the poet the natural ally of revolution!”
Smiling and shaking his head at the foolishness, he opened his mouth to comment when Theresa Bull wedged herself between them and started in on him about his long poem, Procreation, as yet unpublished but apparently making the rounds as some self-righteous and primarily scurrilous word of mouth. Terry, wearing a T-shirt proclaiming Sylvia Died For Ted’s Sins, was the editor of the lifestyle magazine and blog, Modern Lesbian, known to all as MoLes. She was accompanied by her partner Dee Liberate, the radical black feminist author of Think Again, Heat Loss, Fess up, Zero Out, No Wonder, and That’s What I Meant To Say. If anyone had back, Dee certainly did. She possessed a load wide enough to warrant a warning beeper whenever she put her ass in reverse.
“You are an absolute scum bag asshole!” Terry was close enough that Wendt could feel her breath on his cheek. She was a big woman of the broad shoulder broad hip variety. And she was crowding his space. He felt a momentary helplessness, like he had walked into a trap.
“The need for emancipation felt by the individual poet has only to follow its natural course to be led to mingle its stream with this primal necessity, the need to emancipate all poets!”
“You wrote a poem that disrespects women, and denigrates reproductive rights, and you’re of the opinion that women are merely breeding stock, soulless vacuous cows meant only for reproduction.” At the ratchet of each accusation Dee’s face got meaner and meaner, and if possible, darker.
“The conception of the poet’s function is worth recalling. The poet naturally must make money in order to live and write, but should not under any circumstances live and write in order to make money. Poets, by no means, look on their work as a means. It is an end in itself and so little a means in their eyes, and that of others, that, if necessary, they sacrifice their existence for their work. The first condition of freedom of the poetry press is that it is not a business activity!”
There were cheers and foot stomping as if a large truth had just been revealed.
“What do you have to say to that, you fucking cock!”
Wendt could have sworn Terry’s eyes were spinning, the corners of her mouth flecked with spittle. He laughed defensively. “You need to step back with your paranoid unfounded bull shit, Terry!” He said it in such a way as to emphasize the similarity of her name to bovine flop. “I don’t know where you got any of that toxic off-the-wall hearsay crap but you are way off your obsessively pierced shaved head nut. That poem, if you were ever to actually read and understand it, is about the necessity and wonder of creation whether it be making children or works of art! It’s an ode to creativity, not the negative horse pucky you’re trying to make it out to be!”
“In the realm of poetic creation the imagination must escape from all constraint and must under no pretext allow itself to be placed under the purview of political correctness. To those who urge me whether for today or for tomorrow, to consent that poetry should submit to a discipline I hold to be radically incompatible with its nature, I give that flat refusal, Fuck you and the horse you rode in on!”
A unanimous cheer and roar of approval greeted the last as Wendt met Terry’s unbelieving steely gaze. Just like a woman, he mused, once she’s got her mind made up, no way was she going to back down and admit she’s wrong. Perversely, he considered quoting Aristotle, by way of Bruno the Nolan, that women are intractable, frail, capricious, cowardly, feeble, vile, ignoble, base, despicable, slovenly, unworthy, deceitful, harmful, abusive, and disloyal, not that any of that was the exclusive trait of any one gender, but why stir the shit when it’s already roiling. He cast about for a way to extricate himself from the current no-win situation. His savior came in the person of Stan Olsted, author of Something And/Or Other.
“I recognize of course that revolutionary poets have the right to defend themselves against the counterattack of the MFA’s draped in the mantle of higher education. But there is an abyss between those enforced and temporary measures of revolutionary self-defense and the pretentiousness of giving direction on poetic creation. To develop poetry, an anarchist regime of individual liberties from the first should be established. No authority, no dictation, not the least trace of orders from above! Only on the basis of friendly cooperation, without constraint from outside, will it be possible for poets to carry out their tasks, which will be more far reaching than ever before in history!”
A rehabilitated Yeti with a bad haircut and a bent nose with a bent for hooch, Stoli, as Stan was known, was a big guy to begin with, and with his large ego, he could really crowd a room. He wandered innocently into the event horizon of Terry’s venting singularity and draped an ape long arm around Liz’s shoulder practically engulfing it. In that company, it was exactly the wrong thing to do.
“It should be clear by now that in defending freedom of poetry I have no intention of justifying poetic indifference, and that it is far from my wish to revive a so-called pure poetry which generally serves the extremely impure aim of poetry reactionaries. No, my conception of the role of poet in our epoch is to take part actively and consciously in preparation for the poetry revolution. But the poet cannot serve the struggle for acceptance unless he subjectively assimilates its social cost, unless he feels in his very nerves its ambiguity and freely seeks to reveal his own inner world in his poetry.”
Terry turned on Stoli like a viper held by the wrong end. “That’s sexual harassment!” she exclaimed self-righteously and stabbing an accusing pointy claw finger at him.
Stoli was clueless. What he had done was standard operating procedure for him. Find a woman with whom he was acquainted, or barely acquainted with, wrap an arm around her and dispense a crotch felt hug while cooing smooth gigolo pleasantries. “What?”
“What you’re doing would be grounds for the filing of a sexual harassment suit in any workplace, private or public!”
“What?” Stoli asked again tentatively. “I’m just giving my old friend Liz here a hug. What’s wrong with that?”
“First of all, a hug, as you call it, is a covert sexual advance. By giving someone, whether a member of the opposite sex or the same sex who is not a member of your immediate family, a hug, a relic of a so-called liberated era, you are violating a social boundary that preserves the integrity and personal space of that person. The notorious hug of the sixties was just a ploy by shaggy headed horn dogs to cop a feel under the guise of brotherly love!”
Balefully Stoli looked at the arm draped across Liz’s shoulder as if it were not his own.
“What you are doing by placing your arm around her in such a fashion is staking a claim, however symbolic, of possession, like she was a piece of property you could own. . . .”
“In the present period of the death agony of poetry, modern as well as post-modern, the poet sees himself threatened with the loss of his right to write and continue writing. He sees all avenues of poetry choked by the strangle hold of a politically correct lexical dictatorship.”
Wendt backed away cautiously. Both Terry and Dee were too intent on whacking Stoli on the pee-pee to notice him fade into the shadows. None too soon as they began to berate the Yeti for being an insufferable egotistic lecherous alcoholic Lothario. Wendt was more than passing familiar with that label.
“It is only natural that the poet should turn to academic institutions that hold out the possibility of escaping from isolation and poverty. But if poets are to avoid complete demoralization, they cannot remain there. Why? Because of the impossibility of delivering their own poetry and the degrading servility which these institutions exact from them in exchange solely for certain material advantages, that’s why! Poets must understand their place is elsewhere, not among those who betray the cause of the revolution and poetry but among those who with unshaken fidelity bear witness to the poetry revolution! Among those who, for this reason, are alone able to bring it to fruition! And along with it the ultimate free expression of all poetries of human and inhuman genius!”
Wendt hadn’t wandered far when he ran into the poet known as Grumpy Old Dude, usually referred to simply as GOD, author of Fuck That. A previous selection of his poems had been entitled Fuck This, and he was notorious as the editor/publisher of a literary magazine in the days of the mimeograph revolution called Fuck Entropy.
A competing bullhorn coming from the street outside issued a warning to those illegally occupying a building under demolition that their being there constituted a violation of city health and safety codes.
“The aim of this appeal is to find common ground on which all revolutionary poets may be reunited, the better to serve the revolution by their poetry and to defend the freedom of that poetry itself against the post-modern usurpers!”
“Hey, Wendt,” GOD greeted, “wild Luella was in town. Did you catch her reading at the University?” At Wendt’s shake of the head, “She has a new book out entitled Ah!”
“I believe that aesthetic, philosophical and poetical tendencies of the most varied sort can find common ground!”
““I know very well that at least hundreds of thousands of isolated poets scattered throughout the world, whose voices are drowned out by the loud choruses of well-disciplined MFA poetry toadies!”
“Ah! With an exclamation point.” GOD held up a finger in illustration.
““Hundreds of thousands of small poetry magazines and blogs are trying to gather youthful forces about them, seeking new paths and kickstarts!”
“That makes all the difference,” Wendt chuckled snidely. “So what’s GOD been up to these days?”
“Every progressive tendency in poetry is denigrated by post-modernists as degenerate!”
“I’ve been learning to avoid the seven don’t and the eight defects while practicing the three styles, the five principles, and the eight modes.”
The competing bullhorn repeated its demands that everyone immediately leave the premises in an orderly fashion.
“That’ll keep you busy.”
“Every freedom is called anti-poetic by the entrenched academics in the pay of an imperial Anglo hegemony!”
“You know, I don’t get this whole ‘community of writers’ thing. It’s just an opportunity for back stabbing and wife stealing. Fuck that.”
““Independent revolutionary poetry must now gather its forces for the struggle against reactionary publishers and institutions!”
“And what’s with this genius grant thing? Too late! I’m already a genius! I don’t need a grant to be one!”
Determined men wearing serious demeanors, hard hats and badges circulated through the audience in an attempt to herd them toward the exit, one of them signaling Brezon to come down off the stage. Brezon, to his credit, ignored him.
“Poetry must proclaim aloud its right to exist!”
“So this guy I never heard of, some university incubated clone, gets a poetry prize for a hundred large.”
“Such a union of creative forces is the purpose of the International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Poets!”
“From a fucking trust fund foundation I never heard of. What’s up with that? And, need I add, his poetry sucks? Honest poets are being pushed out by the eggheads.”
“I urge all friends and defenders of poetry who cannot but realize the necessity of this appeal to make themselves heard and while they’re at it, to make a small donation at the IFIRP booth near the entrance.”
“There’s just no shame.”
“I address this same appeal to all the editors and publishers who are ready to participate in the federation of independent revolutionary poets!”
“Tell me about it. Taking money under false pretext, so typical of bourgeois writers.”
“Our aim: the independence of poetry—for the revolution!”
“I think it’s a trend.”
“The revolution—for the complete liberation of poetry!”
A rowdy enthusiastic cheer was followed by a spasm that shook the Seedy Reedy, causing a shower of powdery plaster dust to rain down from the ceiling. A rumble accompanied the moaning groan of timbers under stress. And a loud noise, too soft to be an explosion but certainly attention getting, punctuated the oh shit silence before the screams and shouts of panic.
Wendt was big enough to easily push his way through to the entrance. He had no intention of buying it in the rubble of an antique hotel no matter how historic it was supposed to be. Poets were jumping down the steps two and three at a time from the upper floor, some falling and sliding and being stepped on. The official bullhorn urged calm to no avail. A short stocky man careened against Wendt as they cleared the entrance out to the street and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles.
“What the fuck was that?” Wendt demanded following quickly behind him.
The man turned his head as he continued running for the ostensible safety beyond the barricades. “Somebody flushed!”
Next Time: Safely out of the potential disaster of the derelict Reed Hotel, Wendt has an encounter of tragic consequence. To review what has transpired so far, reference the episodes listed in the sidebar, or click The Complete DAY & WEEK to read the pdf file.
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