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.
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.