Honesty not Optimism (written with mild despair)

Over the weekend I wrote a long draft of a magazine feature article highlighting the efforts of Dave Levine to stimulate the poetry scene in New York. I wrote it with a tone of optimism, because this is what I would like to have. But I knew something was fundamentally wrong with it from the moment I put the first word down. I’m not talking about style or readability; it was just flat wrong. I don’t think there is much to be optimistic about in the New York poetry scene. You want an answer to why there isn’t a big movement like the Beat generation happening today: Nobody gives a shit about poetry. It isn’t a major cultural force in New York. Was it ever? I imagine a golden era of men like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg holding court in the Village, inspiring large crowds, waking up millions of sleeping Americans with their bright new American vision, REALLY making a difference.
Jack Kerouac reading his poetry

Today it seems that the people who do care about poetry could all fit into a room. Their group is small enough to be called a cult, or a tiny subculture. They probably all know each other. There are no poems that are breaking down doors in our society, nothing on the order of a Howl. God bless those few, those islands in the stream, for holding on to something precious. But contemporary American society is far from entering a period of renewed interest in artful verse, in my humble opinion. From now on, I am going to approach this subject honestly, as I see it, not exaggerate reality because I still hold on to a fairytale of New York.


6 responses to “Honesty not Optimism (written with mild despair)

  1. Very nicely written, Todd.

  2. jack kerouac was the man

  3. Hey, I still care about poetry! To my surprise, a couple of my peers do too. I think many teens are turned off poetry because of the way it’s taught…I mean, we finally get to T.S. Elliot, and we spent two days on his work- and another two on Pound. Less than a week, and it’s the final year. The past three we focused on Shakespearean sonnets. Teens need to see that poets are like rock-stars, and learn about Byron. Or they should start off with the Beat poets, and learn that poetry can be rebellious. Ah, well.

  4. scott chennells

    the world has changed and society today, i would rather share the little ray of poetic sunshine with few honest souls than blurt my work and heroes work onto deaf ears.

  5. You’re completely right about poetry appreciation being a subculture. Americans seem to be so obsessed with instant gratification, that poetry becomes too ambiguous and hard to understand to be “worth their while.” I find it sad, as I’m sure you do, and I don’t know if poetry will ever find a stage like it did with Ginsberg’s “Howl.” Perhaps one day, it will. Nice piece. Good read.

  6. The ideas that once inspired a generation known as most as the “beat” generation seem to have been lost but the few who still believe in a supreme reality as ginsberg and kerouac would call it will come forward in time and maybe a new generation will unfold. Even in missouri where i am from their are a few idealists who remain. Kerouac said “the great men are laughed at in this nightmare land.” sad but true. I dig what you wrote man.

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