The irrefragable John Latta quoted Viktor Shklovsky & some other interesting Russkies yesterday. Shklovsky presents what seems to be the classic "defamiliarization" argument for art's necessary independence from "life".

Somehow though it sounds very 20th-cent. I mean "defam" doesn't seem to "work" anymore. It's insufficient for originality. Our world relentlessly colonizes art, by way of parasitical forms of academic & "media" professionalism (or semi-professionalism), as well as popular "rebel" attitudinizing.

I'd like to imagine a poetry which "pushes back" against the violence & banality of that world. But it can only do that by its own forms of colonizing - ie. by absorbing and transmuting the other powerful & worldly-wise discourses of science, philosophy, law, theology, politics, ideology, etc. As well as emulating and transmitting the amalgamated achievements of past eras (when poets were also novelists, journalists, cultural critics, playwrights, etc. - there are lots of examples).

It relates to the question of what social "role" the poet wants to play. Are poets content to publish a few books, teach younger people "how to write" in colleges, publish little poems in the New Yorker, etc.? Is that it? Society would love poets to just stay there & be happy & not cause any trouble. And by trouble I don't mean the usual "rebel" role-playing : what would really trouble society is a poet who is intelligent, discursive, and fully engaged with the public debates of the day.

And that question begs the further question : where does poetry stand in relation to the general cultural traditions and transmissions (or disconnects) of the USA, the West, the world?

What if poets started by asking themselves these questions, rather than (self-servingly) jumping on the bandwagons of whatever are the hot political debates-du-jour (war in Iraq, the various "isms" they learned in school)?

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