Published in the journal Oblek (pronounced: oblique), 1993 [special two-volume edition called "Writing From the New Coast"]. (c) Jennifer Moxley.
In these times it is easy to become uselessly polemical when given the choice between the right wing and fighting against the right wing. And in this bind we are debating on "where poetry comes from," or what is its "use value." I'm not sure if I want to know where poetry comes from. I do know that if I were to describe what goes through my mind when I write I'd be ceaselessly ridiculed and no one would ever speak to me again. As far as use value goes, I say stop sulking about being misunderstood, ignored, or having to fight for your unique aesthetic and look around you. There is a specter haunting poetry, and it's not The Paris Review. Now I do not deny that discussions about poetry, whether aesthetic, political, or both, are useful and interesting, but considering the state of things in the world we should put down that cup of coffee and start getting angry. Let us assume time is limited and forget about defining the creative process or trying to determine the value of poetry, after all it keeps happening in spite of (or because of) MTV and rampant social injustice. Let us heave no more sighs unless we are falling in love. We should be disgusted with our boredom considering spring and all the beauty of this privilege we have called poetry. We should not assume, however, that our vision of "truth" (though we may stupidly think it's the right one) will be heard simply because it's ill poetic form. Even screaming from the rooftops "We are telling the truth!" doesn't mean anything unless a million people do it. I know some of us feel unduly isolated since poetry is pretty much ignored, but we aren't alone. We're in the same stew as other ignored ideas, arts, and people who are unfairly driven to a preoccupation with the question "who the fuck are we anyway?" But just because we are poets doesn't mean we should simply give up, as though we were "kept" lovers, what little power we do have by crawling into an abyss of solipsism or expecting some greater power to change our lives. Instead we should annoy the power mongers by using poetic propaganda to launch a ruthless critique of them and their buddies and to expose the world of contradictions surrounding us. For poetry, my friends, is like a sit-in at the luncheonette of language, and we should refuse to get up and walk across the street to the "poets only" diner. Poetry is the insistence that we partake in the expression of our lives, in all their various contexts and manifestations. The importance freedom is paramount and we must insist upon it by demanding money and support from the state and demanding free distribution of all independent poetry publications. Having won these goals we should categorically refuse to be insular or troubled. We can forget about money by making the wealthy reinstitute a benefactor economy (until after the revolution), that way we can have their money as well as infiltrate their homes and insult them at their cocktail parties. You are probably wondering "but what shall we wear?" I say whatever you want, but come in style drag out those accessories and suede shoes, then we'll all go out afterwards for pie in the sky. We must also capture back the public domain for poetry! Let us insist on writing all freeway signs, tax forms and public awareness leaflets. Let's then stop sending poems to Sulfur magazine and journals like it. Let's all change our names every few months and see if anyone being ugly bags of mostly narcissism and start picking fights with those who would have us fight against ourselves.
Document URL: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/moxley.html
Last modified: Wednesday, 18-Jul-2007 16:27:49 EDT