“It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for the lack / of what is found there.”

– from “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” by WCW

I was raised to understand that literature and art, especially poetry, were luxuries. The study and enjoyment of poetry were for those who did not have to commit significant amounts of energy to labor and purposeful education, classes that led to jobs paying wages higher than those our parents and uncles and aunts could secure. Poetry, I understood, was an indulgence.

In graduate school I came to understand the territory of poetry differently. It wasn’t an indulgence, but it wasn’t for everybody. It was difficult, maybe, but necessary, requiring commitments to intellectual rigor and to the development of a finely-tuned appreciation of aesthetics. Once achieved, the skills of the poet and the poetry scholar could create and read poetry as a weathervane for cultural and artistic evolution. The direction of (high) cultural change was determined first in poetry, and, as a consequence, had a decisive impact on the commons, though those of the commons were unaware of it and lacked the skills (sensitivity/intellect/aesthetic mastery) to participate in the experience of poetry.

I do believe that poetry is vital to everyone, but not in this trickle-down manner reminiscent of Reagan economics.* Poetry, I argue, is of the commons and for the commons and cannot be usurped by the myth of an aristocratic literati. I have decided to make this argument my campaign for National Poetry Month. Every day I will write not just about why poetry matters to the commons, but why poetry depends on the commons and cannot exist without it. While some may argue that poetry doesn’t matter, I will assume, a priori, that it does (of course). From there, I want to explore how it matters, how it has come to matter, and what role it plays in the common life.

I will write every day. I will try to be brilliant and incisive at all times, but a pile of dirty dishes may occasionally dull my wit, and days spent teaching or working or in the company of a four year old will probably bring any critical prowess I’m capable of to its knees. But stick with me here in the commons. I can’t do it alone.

* The term “trickle-down” was originally a joke from Will Rogers during the Great Depresssion. This was his joke: “money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.” I don’t feel it necessary to point out the irony of a joke becoming an accepted economic practice.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: